‘No comment’: Trump refuses to deny report he wanted to bomb drug labs in Mexico

Trump’s former defence secretary revealed in his new book that the former president allegedly asked about sending missiles into Mexico to ‘destroy drug labs’

Johanna Chisholm
Monday 09 May 2022 13:23 BST
Mark Esper says Trump suggested they 'just shoot' protesters in 2020
Leer en Español

In the wake of a series of bombshell allegations levied against Donald Trump in Mark Esper’s forthcoming book, the former president, refused to comment on the claim in which the former defence secretary said he allegedly asked about launching missiles into Mexico to “destroy the drug labs”.

Mr Esper, a West Point graduate who spent 10 years serving as a US Army officer, told CBS’ Norah O’Donnell during an interview on Sunday night’s 60 Minutes that during the last year of the Trump administration, he and other officials worked tirelessly to prevent “really bad things” from happening under the former president’s watch.

“Dangerous things that could have taken the country in – in a dark direction,” the former secretary of defense told the CBS host.

Those dangerous things, when pressed further by Ms O’Donnell, included avoiding sending troops to Venezuela during the presidential crisis in 2019, striking Iran and at one point, Mr Esper expanded, even included a potential blockade of Cuba.

Before the interview aired, the network sent over a series of claims levelled against Mr Trump in the interview by his previous employee, seeking comment or verification.

CBS shared a screenshot of Mr Trump’s response to the questions, which included a selection of queries about some of the claims Mr Esper had made in his book and discussed on the show.

They sought comment for Mr Esper’s accusation that Mr Trump asked about shooting protesters in the legs during the racial reckoning protests that followed George Floyd’s death in the summer of 2020 and a claim that he’d also debated sending 10,000 active duty troops to Washington after St John’s church was set on fire.

Mr Trump responded by flatly denying all but one of the claims sent over by the network.

In responding to the question from CBS that asked specifically about Mr Esper’s claim that the former president had suggested they “attack the drug cartels with missiles” in Mexico, Mr Trump gave a concise and non-committal answer: “No comment”.

There were five claims sent over by the outlet to be run by the former president. For every claim, excluding the Mexico drug lab missiles allegation, that Ms O’Donnell sought his comment on, Mr Trump responded by either outrightly rejecting the veracity of the question, using words like “wrong”, “Fake News” and “complete lie”, or by lambasting his former employee, referring to Mr Esper only as “Yesper” and labelling him with the far-right Republican insult of RINO.

“Mark Esper was weak and totally ineffective, and because of it, I had to run the military,” Mr Trump said in his written responses to CBS about Mr Espser, who before coming onboard as defense secretary had served as secretary of Army and prior to that vice president for government relations for Raytheon, a military contractor.

Notably, he did not choose to enthusiastically rebuff the Mexican drug labs claim as he did the others.

When the outlet asked: “On a couple of occasions President Trump suggested to Esper they ‘attack drug cartels with missiles’”, he provided his shortest and most non-inflammatory response: “No comment.”

Mr Esper went on in the interview to discuss how tensions between the two men began to boil over from the outset of his posting in July 2019.

He noted how, two days after he accepted his role in the White House, he was on a call with President Volodymyr Zelensky and Mr Trump during which the US leader asked for a “favour” while he was withholding aid to Ukraine. This call would later go on to form the foundation of Mr Trump’s first impeachment.

“It would be an argument after an argument. And I’d have to say, ‘Look, Mr President, at the end of the day, Congress appropriated. It’s the law. We have to do it,’” Mr Esper told the CBS host during their interview.

Within A Sacred Oath, set to be released on 10 May, Mr Esper outlined how on not one, but two occasions Mr Trump asked about shooting Patriot missiles, which are surface-to-air weapons, and how the US could quietly deny responsibility, saying “no one would know it was us”, according to excerpts reported by The New York Times.

Mr Esper was fired by Mr Trump in a tweet sent off in November 2020, just two days after he lost his re-election campaign for US president to Joe Biden.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in