Former President Donald Trump called his one-time defense secretary Mark Esper a “lightweight” Sunday and claimed he was forced to “run the military” himself due to Esper’s incompetence.
“Mark Esper was a stiff who was desperate not to lose his job,” the 45th president told CBS News’ “60 Minutes” in response to various claims by the former Pentagon chief.
“He would do anything I wanted, that’s why I called him ‘Yesper,’” Trump added. “He was a lightweight and figurehead, and I realized it very early on.”
“Mark Esper was weak and totally ineffective and because of it, I had to run the military,” the statement continued.
Esper, whose Sunday “60 Minutes” interview took place ahead of the Tuesday publication of his book, “A Sacred Oath,” has alleged that Trump asked him about launching missiles into Mexico to destroy drug cartels and having the military shoot Black Lives Matter protesters in the legs.
The former defense secretary also claimed Trump wanted to launch “military action” against Venezuela, proposed establishing a blockade of Cuba, and referred to cabinet members as “f–king losers” during the same June 2020 meeting at which he suggested opening fire on demonstrators.
“This is a complete lie, and 10 witnesses can back it up,” Trump said of the latter charge, later adding: “I took out ISIS, Qasem [sic] Soleimani, [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi, rebuilt the military with $2.5 trillion, created Space Force, and so much more.”
Trump also disputed Esper’s claim that he wanted to deploy 10,000 active-duty troops to Washington after St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House was set ablaze during George Floyd protests in May 2020.
“Wrong. I wanted to send at least 10,000 troops for January 6, because I knew many people were coming to Washington that day to protest the corrupt Presidential Election of 2020,” the statement said.
“Nancy Pelosi and the D.C. Mayor turned me down,” he said.
The former president staged a famous photo op at the historic church across from the White House a day after the fire and held up a Bible.
Trump also denied that he and Esper butted heads over whether Trump could invoke the Insurrection Act of 1803, which would have allowed the military to clear out protesters.
“This is Fake News. The fact is I didn’t need to invoke the act and never did,” Trump said in the statement.
Asked about his alleged proposal to attack the drug cartels, Trump responded to “60 Minutes” by saying: “No comment.”