(The Hill) — Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper says that former President Trump asked authorities if they could shoot protesters in the legs amid the demonstrations that filled the streets of Washington following the murder of George Floyd.
“Can’t you just shoot them? Just shoot them in the legs or something?” Esper says Trump said.
Esper’s revelation from his new memoir “A Sacred Oath” — first seen by Axios — uncovers more details about their rocky relationship during the nationwide racial protests in 2020, as Esper publicly opposed Trump’s threat to deploy active-duty troops.
At the time, Esper said the deployment of active-duty forces should only be used as a “matter of last resort,” countering Trump’s depiction of the protests being a dire situation. The Defense Department did move 1,600 troops to bases near Washington, but not in the District of Columbia itself.
“I had to figure out a way to walk Trump back without creating the mess I was trying to avoid,” Esper wrote in his book, describing Trump as “red faced and complaining loudly about the protests under way in Washington, D.C.”
Esper’s comments follow similar ones made by Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender for his book that Trump called for law enforcement to handle protesters and “crack their skulls.”
When Esper publicly broke with Trump on the treatment of protesters in June of 2020, other Republicans, like Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah), John Thune (S.D) and Mike Braun (Ind.), agreed with the move and supported the former Defense secretary publicly.
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Trump fired Esper immediately following the 2020 presidential election, replacing him with Christopher Miller. In what seemed like an intentional slight to Trump in a letter addressed to him, Esper did not thank his former boss and said he tried to keep politics out of the Pentagon.
Esper’s book has received the Pentagon’s stamp of approval and others who reviewed it say they also witnessed what Trump said, according to Axios.