Then-President Donald Trump asked his defense secretary, Mark Esper, if the U.S. could fire missiles into Mexico to destroy drug labs run by cartels, keeping the military action secret, Esper writes in an upcoming memoir about his time in the White House, according to The New York Times.
Trump asked about it at least twice, Esper recounts in the book “A Secret Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times,” an advanced copy of which was reviewed by the Times. The tome is set to be released on Tuesday and has gone through the Pentagon’s standard security clearance screening.
The conversations took place in the summer of 2020 at the height of campaigning for that year’s presidential election, with Trump frustrated about the flow of drugs from south of the border, a key gripe during his tenure. Esper recounts Trump asking if the U.S. military could “shoot missiles into Mexico to destroy the drug labs,” saying Mexico’s government didn’t “have control” of the country.
“No one would know it was us,” Trump said after Esper objected, adding that he would be willing to deny the strike publicly.
The book contains other shocking anecdotes. In one retelling, Esper said former Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller suggested taking the head of the deceased Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — who died during a U.S. raid in 2019 — and dipping it in pig’s blood. Miller proposed parading the body part around to warn other terrorists.
Esper said that would be a war crime. Miller denied the episode to the Times, saying the former defense secretary was a “moron.”
The former Pentagon chief is the latest member of Trump’s inner circle to document the chaotic final days of his administration, portraying the former president as obsessed with reelection and emboldened by his acquittal from his first impeachment trial. Esper said he was often left speechless by Trump’s requests, but didn’t resign because he felt he was one of the few people in the West Wing able to prevent calamity from taking place.
Esper said he never believed that Trump’s behavior rose to a level requiring his removal via the 25th Amendment, the Times added.
Axios reported this week that Esper also recounted a moment when Trump asked if his top military officials could order troops to shoot protesters who demonstrated after the police killing of George Floyd.
“The good news — this wasn’t a difficult decision,” Esper writes. “The bad news — I had to figure out a way to walk Trump back without creating the mess I was trying to avoid.”