I warned the National Guard of a possible coup, said Trump’s defense secretary | Books

A week before Election Day 2020, the US Secretary of Defense was so concerned that Donald Trump was seeking to involve the military in the election to try to retain power, he told the General Commanding the US National Guard of the inform of any communication from anyone in the White House.

“Without being too explicit,” Mark Esper writes in a new memoir, “my message was clear: The U.S. military was not going to get involved in the election, no matter who ran it. I would intercede.

Such intercession, Esper writes, would involve trying to persuade Trump not to use the military to retain power, then if necessary, Esper would resign, appeal to Congressional Republicans, and hold a press conference to directly appeal to the American people.

Esper thought Trump could order actions such as seizure of ballot boxes in key states. In the end, Trump did not attempt to use the military to influence the election, which he lost to Joe Biden. He sought to reverse the result by other means.

Esper was fired by Trump on November 9, 2020, six days after the election.

He details the extraordinary steps he felt compelled to take before that in a new book, A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Defense Secretary in Extraordinary Times, which will be published next week. The Guardian obtained a copy.

Esper devotes considerable space to his work with General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to thwart Trump’s attempts to use the military for political purposes, whether in military strikes against Iran or Syria — or even Mexico — or at home, invoking the Racial Justice Protesters Insurrection Act.

Trump’s demand that these protesters be shot in the legs, and Esper’s account of his resistance, have been reported elsewhere.

The protests died down, but Esper said the two most senior Pentagon officials remained concerned that Trump might seek to use the military domestically to swing power his way.

Esper describes a meeting at the Pentagon with Milley and National Guard Chief Gen. Daniel Hokanson on Oct. 30, “the last Friday before the election.”

The “ostensible purpose of the meeting,” Esper says, given that it was visible to anyone who could see his schedule, was an update on National Guard military police units put on alert to appease Trump during the demonstrations for racial justice.

But when it comes to the election, Esper says, “it was a serious moment.”

He says he told General Hokanson: “If at any time in the next few days – before, during or after the election – you get a call from nobody at the White House, take it, acknowledge the message and call me immediately. The same rule applies if you hear about TAGS [national guard state adjutant generals] or governors receive a similar call.

Esper says he also asked Hokanson “to find a low-key way to get that last part out, which he said he would do.”

Esper writes that as the only civilian between the president and the military, he feared the White House was “trying to get around me to do something inappropriate” and “wanted to be ready for anything.”

“The point of my game plan – the reason I had taken so much bullshit over the past few months – was to be in this position, in this moment, to act. The essence of democracy was elections free and fair, followed by a peaceful transition of power.

Milley, he wrote, told him that he and the other joint chiefs would “resign if pressed to break their oath” and involve the military in the election. Esper said he didn’t want to allow the generals “to be put in such a compromising position, especially if a presidential order was legal but grossly false or inappropriate.”

“…If such an order came from the White House, my immediate recourse would be to demand a meeting with the President. I would like to hear and understand the directive directly from him, offer alternative solutions if possible, and express my opposition face to face if he was inflexible. If I didn’t succeed, I would be forced to resign immediately in protest. But that wouldn’t be the end of the line for me.

Esper writes that he allegedly called high-ranking Republicans on Capitol Hill to ask them to intercede with Trump, then held a press conference “where I updated the country on everything that had happened and was going on. to unfold”.

“I would present my best case and appeal to the American people, their elected leaders in Congress, and institutions of government to intervene. The aim would be to buy time and put pressure on the president to resign.

As Esper writes, election day, November 3, “came and went without any incident involving the armed forces. Thank goodness.” He says he was relieved that although the contest wasn’t held until the following weekend, Biden’s lead was clear.

Esper also says he “never imagined” what was to follow: Trump’s attempt to nullify the election with lies about voter fraud and coordination with Republicans in Congress and other groups and advisers. of the right, culminating on January 6, 2021 with the storming of the American Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

The Capitol attack was linked to seven deaths and led to more than 800 charges. But that didn’t stop Biden’s victory from being certified. After being fired after the election, Esper watched the attack on television.

About Joey J. Hott

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