Former President Donald Trump pressed his defense secretary, Mark Esper, about launching missiles into Mexico to “destroy the drug labs” and obliterate the drug cartels, Esper claims in a soon-to-be-released book.
In order to avoid blowback over such a strike, Trump said he would simply claim the United States had not conducted the attack and assured Esper that “no one would know it was us," the former DOD chief recounted, emphasizing he would have thought Trump was joking if he hadn't seen his face.
“They don’t have control of their own country,” Esper recalled Trump saying, according to the New York Times. “We could just shoot some Patriot missiles and take out the labs, quietly."
Trump was unhappy about the steady stream of illegal drugs flooding across the U.S.-Mexico border. He asked the question in the summer of 2020 and brought it up at least twice, according to Esper. His book, A Sacred Oath, is slated for release next Tuesday.
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Esper served as Trump's defense secretary from July 23, 2019, to Nov. 9, 2020, when he was fired via tweet. He had succeeded Jim Mattis, who resigned over Trump's announced decision to pull troops out of Syria and subsequently denounced the former president as a threat to the Constitution.
In his book, Esper contends Trump's behavior never came to the point at which invoking the 25th Amendment, wherein the vice president and members of the Cabinet can oust an unfit president from office, was warranted. However, Esper panned Trump as "an unprincipled person who, given his self-interest, should not be in the position of public service." He noted that after a conference Trump held with the Joint Chiefs on May 9, 2020, about China and the pandemic, an unidentified officer told Esper the meeting prompted him to research the amendment.
“I felt like I was writing for history and for the American people,” Esper said, per the New York Times.
Esper surmised that Trump's conduct became increasingly volatile after he was acquitted in his first impeachment trial, which took place after evidence surfaced that Trump sought to leverage military aid to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on the Biden family. Concerns about his reelection prospects had overtaken much of Trump's decision-making process during his final year in office, according to Esper.
Worsening matters were the "yes-men" and others feeding the former president baffling ideas, Esper wrote. After officials monitored the raid that killed Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in October 2019, White House policy adviser Stephen Miller suggested that al Baghdadi's head be dipped in pig’s blood and paraded around to warn other terrorists not to mess with the U.S., Esper claimed. The former defense secretary noted that would amount to a "war crime."
Esper also highlighted a proposal from Miller to deploy 250,000 troops to address a caravan of migrants heading toward the U.S. border that Esper quickly shot down. Esper felt that then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was a significant source of consternation for the national security team. He also expressed concern that former national security adviser Robert O’Brien was too belligerent toward Iran.
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The Washington Examiner reached out to a spokesperson for Trump.
Trump's talk of a missile strike against Mexico, as told by Esper, is reminiscent of other musings and behaviors exhibited by the former president. This includes Trump inquiring in 2019 about the possibility of deploying nuclear weapons to stop hurricanes, Axios reported.