Trump wanted to court-martial former military officials he thought were disloyal, book claims

Trump wanted generals punished for criticism of his leadership

John Bowden
Wednesday 11 May 2022 22:07 BST
Steve Bannon threatens revenge against Mark Esper for revelations about Trump

Former Defence Secretary Mark Esper’s list of shocking revelations about his former boss continued to grow on Tuesday with the official release of his new book detailing his time in the Trump administration.

Mr Esper wrote in the book, and further detailed in an interview with The Washington Post, that he and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Mark Milley were left trying to talk then-President Donald Trump out of ordering court martials of two retired military officers after they criticised his leadership style.

Mr Trump has long been a target of criticism from former politicians, public officials in nonpartisan roles as well as former military officers like Stanley McChrystal, one of two names along with retired admiral William McRaven mentioned by Mr Esper as targets for potential court martials by the 45th president.

In 2018, Mr McChrystal told ABC’s This Week that he believed Mr Trump was a liar.

“I don’t think he tells the truth,” said the retired general. Asked by host Martha Raddatz if he thought Mr Trump was immoral, Mr McChrystal responded: “I think he is.”

Those comments apparently did not sit well with Mr Trump, who attempted to take revenge some time after Mr Esper wast confirmed as defence secretary in 2019.

Mr Esper wrote in his book, A Sacred Oath, that he personally worked to dissuade Mr Trump from taking action.

“Doing this ‘will backfire on you, Mr President,’ we said,” wrote the former Pentagon secretary, according to the Post. “The discussion went back and forth a little while longer in the Oval Office, with Milley finally figuring out a way to get the president to back down by promising that he would personally call the officers and ask them to dial it back.”

In an interview with the newspaper, he questioned further: “[W]hat would it have done to the military profession for a president to call back to active duty two … retired four-stars and to try and court-martial them for publicly expressing their views?”

Mr Trump’s office has roundly criticised Mr Esper as a supposed “yes-man” and painted him as an ineffective leader who left the ex-president himself in charge of running the military. In a lengthy statement about the book given to CBS News, the former president declined to address a number of claims in the book directly, however, including the claim that he had suggested a missile strike against drug cartel targets in Mexico.

The Independent has reached out to the former president’s office for comment on this newest revelation from Mr Esper’s book.

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