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

By John Bowden
AFP via Getty Images

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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Dive Deeper:
Ex-defence secretary says he believes Trump was a ‘threat to democracy’
Former defence secretary says he hopes Trump does not run for president in 2024
Steve Bannon threatens Mark Esper over Trump revelations: ‘You’re going to be held accountable, bro’
‘When we come to power, don’t think you can skip away from this’
Esper: Trump’s White House discussed blockade of Cuba and military action in Venezuela
Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he prevented “dangerous things” from happening during the time President Donald Trump was in…
A Sacred Oath review: Mark Esper on Trump, missiles for Mexico and more
The ex-defense secretary’s memoir is scary and sobering – but don’t expect Republican leaders or voters to heed his warning
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Mark Esper says he and military chief devised ‘four No’s’ to stop Trump doing ‘bad things, terrible things’ and taking US in ‘dark direction’
‘The last year of the Trump administration … we prevented really bad things, dangerous things’
Jr. rushes in to defend Trump missiles
“Is that supposed to be a bad thing?”
Get all your news in one place