In the summer of 2020, unhappy about the flow of drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border, then-President Donald Trump asked his defense secretary, Mark Esper, if the U.S. military could "shoot missiles into Mexico to destroy the drug labs," Esper writes in his forthcoming memoir of working in the Trump administration. Trump made this request at least twice, and after Esper pushed back with several objections, Trump suggested "we could just shoot some Patriot missiles and take out the labs, quietly," and "no one would know it was us," Esper writes in A Sacred Oath, The New York Times reports.
Esper writes "he would have thought it was a joke had he not been staring Mr. Trump in the face," the Times reports.
While straining to be fair to Trump and giving him any credit he deserves, "Esper paints a portrait of someone not in control of his emotions or his thought process throughout 2020," especially after his first impeachment trial, the Times reports. He also "singles out officials whom he considered erratic or dangerous influences" on Trump, and adviser Stephen Miller is "near the top of the list."
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In an interview with CBS News' Norah O'Donnell set to air Sunday night, Esper says he was "flabbergasted" by Miller's suggestion to send 250,000 U.S. troops to the Mexico border. "I think he's joking," Esper recounts. "And then I turn around, and I look at him in these deadpan eyes. It's clear that he is not joking."
In his book, Esper writes that he told Miller, "The U.S. armed forces don't have 250,000 troops to send to the border for such nonsense," the Times reports. Esper also recounts how Miller suggested, after U.S. special forces killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, that the U.S. cut of al-Baghdadi's head and dip in in pig's blood as a warning to other Islamist terrorists. Esper told Miller that would be a "war crime," he writes. Miller denied the episode and told the Times that Esper is "a moron."
But Esper's main concern is Trump, and he ran his manuscript by more than two dozen four-star generals plus Cabinet ministers and others to make sure his book is accurate and fair. Trump, he tells the Times, "is an unprincipled person who, given his self-interest, should not be in the position of public service."
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