Given a chance to address whether he contemplated firing missiles at Mexico, as his ex-defense secretary writes in a new memoir, Donald Trump avoided the issue, instead attacking his former cabinet member as “weak and ineffective”.
Trump, in a written statement to CBS’s 60 Minutes, said he had “no comment” when asked whether he ever asked ex-defense secretary Mark Esper about sending “missiles into Mexico” to destroy drug cartel labs in the country, which Esper claimed in a memoir published this week.
And having passed on confirming or disputing Esper’s recollections, the former president instead mocked his second and last secretary of defense by calling him “Yesper”, among other things, resorting to bombast Trump has used before whenever faced with unfavorable facts.
“Mark Esper was weak and totally ineffective, and because of it, I had to run the military,” Trump’s statement to 60 Minutes boasted. “He was a lightweight and figurehead, and I realized it very early on.
“I fired Yesper because he was a Rino (Republican in name only) incapable of leading, and I had to run the military myself.”
In A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Defense Secretary in Extraordinary Times, Esper depicts himself as one of a few presidential aides who opposed bad or illegal ideas put on the table by Trump or his subordinates. Other such ideas included assassinating a senior Iranian military officer operating outside the Islamic Republic, sending 250,000 troops to the US border with Mexico, and dipping the decapitated head of a terrorist leader in pig’s blood as a warning to other Islamist militants, according to Esper’s memoir.
While it avoids discussing the concept of attacking Mexico with missiles, Trump’s statement to 60 Minutes did dispute some scenes included in Esper’s memoir, such as his request that people protesting the police murder of George Floyd in 2020 be shot in the legs. Trump’s statement claimed he never felt he needed to invoke the Insurrection Act – allowing him to deploy the military domestically – against racial justice protesters, to which Esper devotes some space in his memoir.
And, contrary to the evidence made public by the congressional committee investigating his supporters’ attack on the Capitol on 6 January, Trump’s statement claimed he wanted to send 10,000 troops in advance of that day to provide security.
Trump fired Esper on 9 November 2020, six days after the election that he lost to Joe Biden.
Esper’s memoir comes as Trump has endorsed a slew of candidates in this fall’s midterm elections, which many are taking as a referendum on his political power as he aims to run for the presidency again in 2024.