Pentagon chief, a longtime Republican, found himself rooting against his boss
Former President Donald Trump had lost the political support of his own defence secretary by the time election night rolled around last year, a new book from two Washington Post journalists reports.
In excerpts of I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year, an upcoming book of reporting on the final days of Mr Trump’s presidency and reelection bid from the Post’s Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, Mark Esper is described as rooting against Mr Trump on election night due to fears of his instability and his own experience working with now-President Joe Biden when he was former President Barack Obama’s second-in-command.
“Esper was a lifelong Republican and had worked at the conservative Heritage Foundation as well as for Republican senators Bill Frist and Chuck Hagel,” read the excerpts published by the Post on Tuesday. Mr Hagel notably went on to serve as secretary of defence under Mr Obama.
“But he told his closest colleagues that as he watched TV news anchors cover the election results, he found himself rooting for the Democrat,” the excerpts continued, noting that Mr Esper characterized Mr Biden and his now-Secretary of State Antony Blinken as “serious, stable people who cared deeply about shoring up national security” while he “couldn’t say the same about Trump”.
According to Ms Leonnig and Mr Rucker, the former Pentagon chief was so concerned about the president’s instability that he worried Mr Trump would “call in the troops” to quash protests or take other actions if the election was not a clear result one way or the other.
“He had feared that anything less might give Trump some shred of a reason to call out troops,” they wrote.
The president famously came under fire after law enforcement cleared protesters from Lafayette Park, an area near the White House, just before Mr Trump engaged in a bizarre photo op with a Bible outside of a Washington DC church. A report from Interior Department Inspector General Mark Greenblatt, a nominee of Mr Trump’s, found that law enforcement did not clear the protesters from the park as a result of the photo op, even though Mr Trump’s visit to the area occurred just minutes after the protesters were cleared out with chemical irritants and riot police.
During widespread unrest last year after the murder of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin, a former police officer with the Minneapolis police department, Mr Trump threatened to send federal law enforcement to major cities around the country to quell demonstrations.
“I mean, we’re sending law enforcement,” he told reporters during a June 2020 meeting in the Oval Office.
“I’m going to do something – that, I can tell you,” Mr Trump added. “Because we’re not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these – Oakland is a mess. We’re not going to let this happen in our country. All run by liberal Democrats.”