Donald Trump, then the President of the United States, wanted the military to shoot social justice protestors galvanized by the murder of George Floyd.
“Can’t you just shoot them? Just shoot them in the legs or something?” Trump asked his advisors in June 2020, according to a forthcoming memoir by former Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
Axios obtained a copy of the book, “A Sacred Oath,” in advance of its May 10th publication. The outlet reports:
That moment in the first week of June, 2020, “was surreal, sitting in front of the Resolute desk, inside the Oval Office, with this idea weighing heavily in the air, and the president red faced and complaining loudly about the protests under way in Washington, D.C.,” Esper writes.
“The good news — this wasn’t a difficult decision,” Esper continues. “The bad news — I had to figure out a way to walk Trump back without creating the mess I was trying to avoid.”
Trump was reportedly irate that Esper publicly rejected the possibility of invoking the 1807 Insurrection Act, which would empower the president to use active duty troops to quell protests.
Trump eventually fired Esper following the 2020 election.
Axios reports that Esper’s memoir was vetted “at the highest levels of the Pentagon.”
“As part of the clearance process,” Axios writes, “the book was reviewed in whole or in part by nearly three dozen 4-star generals, senior civilians, and some Cabinet members. Some of them had witnessed what Esper witnessed.”
Esper’s account of an erratic Trump is also supported by additional reporting.
In their highly anticipated book, “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future,” New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns provide details on Trump’s reaction to the protests.
Business Insider reports:
“If the murder of George Floyd spurred Biden into a slightly more active mode of campaigning, it seemed to trigger something else entirely in Trump,” Martin and Burns wrote, where they also mentioned his struggles in handling the coronavirus pandemic. “The president was tired, it seemed, of feeling like the victim of forces beyond his control. He wanted to be in charge, and he wanted the public to know he was in charge.”
In the June call with the governors, Trump was joined by then-Attorney General Bill Barr and then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Martin and Burns wrote that it was “immediately clear” to the leaders that they would be attending a meeting unlike any other.
“Savaging the racial-justice protestors around the country as ‘terrorists,’ Trump urged the governors to exact ‘retribution’ while demanding a swift return to public order,” Martin and Burns wrote. “Esper, a buttoned-down West Point graduate and former Raytheon executive, advised the governors that they should seek to ‘dominate the battlespace’ in their states. In the Rose Garden later that day, Trump threatened to deploy federal troops if the governors did not move swiftly enough.”
They continued: “The executives were in shock. Up early at the governor’s residence in Salem, Oregon, the Democratic governor, Kate Brown, called out her husband in a nearby room: You’ve got to hear what this guy is saying.”
According to Martin and Burns, she added: “You can’t make this shit up. You cannot believe that this is happening in the United States of America.”
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills of Maine was so disturbed by the call, according to Martin and Burns, that she asked her security team to listen in.
“You gotta sit here and listen to this because I think the president of the United States is having a nervous breakdown or something, and it’s scary,” she said at the time.