What Esper and other Trump tellers said, before and after

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Once again, a former senior Trump administration official has released a memoir containing explosive revelations about former President Donald Trump – this time coming from former Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper.

And as each tell-tale came to light, it was rightly noted that much of this information would have been relevant much earlier – say, when Trump faced impeachment twice, or as the day of the elections approached. 2020 and January 6 elections. Capitol insurrection. Critics — even those inclined to like what the books have to say — have sued the authors for not speaking sooner and accused them of cashing in rather than speaking out when it mattered.

Given this heated debate, it’s worth looking at precisely what four of them – Esper, William P. Barr, John Bolton and Stephanie Grisham – said while in office, when they left and when they finally left. decided to speak out.

Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper

When he stood with Trump: Esper has generally avoided political issues. But on a call with governors amid racial justice protests in the summer of 2020, Esper echoed Trump’s call for a heavy-handed approach: “I think the sooner you massage yourself and dominate the combat space, the faster this dissipates and we can go back to normal right. Esper quickly appeared during a political photo op at a church after law enforcement forcefully emptied Lafayette Square in front of the White House. Esper also defended Trump in September 2020 amid a report that Trump disparaged the troops, emphasizing Trump’s respect for the troops without directly denying the report.

When he broke up with Trump: Despite comments on governors’ call, Esper internally opposed Trump’s idea of ​​using 10,000 active-duty troops to quell protests, and he admitted he was wrong to both in his choice of words and in appearing at the photo shoot. He also publicly, albeit indirectly, chastised Trump’s idea of ​​using the Insurrection Act to quell protests, as well as Trump’s idea of ​​illegally bombing Iranian cultural sites. Esper also alienated Trump by banning the Confederate flag on military bases and gave credence to reports that Russian soldiers offered bounties to Taliban fighters for killing Americans – which Trump called a “hoax”. .

What he will write later: In Esper’s new book, he confirms that Trump floated the idea of ​​shooting protesters in the leg and says that Trump also offered to surreptitiously bomb drug cartels on Mexican soil. (He says the latter would be an “act of war” and illegal.) He also writes that Trump wanted to court-martial two prominent generals, Stanley McChrystal and William H. McRaven, who had criticized him. He has also said in book-related interviews that Trump is a threat to democracy and that Trump actually incited the rioters on January 6, 2021.

His explanation for not saying these things sooner and risking getting fired: He told the Post, “I don’t know who is going to come behind me, and I didn’t trust that they would do the things that I was doing – that they would push back. My concern was that they would actually implement some of these wacky ideas. But that brings us to the question: why not talk after Trump fired him in November 2020?

Attorney General William P. Barr

When he stood with Trump: Time and time again, Barr has intervened in unorthodox ways in legal cases, in favor of Trump allies. He provided Trump with a politically useful and misleading summary of the Mueller report. He launched an investigation into the Russian investigation itself, which Trump had repeatedly demanded. After the election, Barr also broke Justice Department protocol and fueled Trump election conspiracy theories by announcing that the DOJ would investigate “vote tabulation irregularities.”

When he broke up with Trump: Barr refused to hold a press conference exonerating Trump of his guilt in the Ukraine scandal. And after the 2020 election, he finally rebuked Trump’s voter fraud allegations, saying in early December 2020: “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have had a different outcome in the election. .

What he will write later: Under pressure from Trump to step down, Barr had nothing but praise for the president when he left in December 2020: “Your record is all the more historic for accomplishing it in the face of relentless resistance and relentless.” In his book, however, Barr more directly chastised Trump’s allegations of massive voter fraud, writing that he compared it to cattle droppings during a meeting with Trump. He also told Jonathan Karl that he had indeed already come to this conclusion when he announced that the DOJ would investigate these matters in November 2020. He also publicly stated, as Esper did, that Trump was ” responsible in the broad sense” of 6 January.

His explanation for not saying these things sooner: Grilled by NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, Barr pointed out that her resignation came after the Electoral College vote on Dec. 14, 2020. “The idea that anything could be done later than Jan. 6 was nonsense. Once the election was locked on Dec. 14, I tendered my resignation and knew Trump was going to leave office. But like Esper’s explanation, it ignores how useful that information might have been even soon after he left — both during Trump’s impeachment and in preventing the events of January 6.

National Security Advisor John Bolton

When he stood with Trump: He echoed Trump’s questioning about Russia’s aid to Trump’s 2016 campaign, suggesting in late 2016 that it might have been a “false flag.” He also later claimed that Trump had no doubts about Russian interference in his “hoax” speech, even though Trump clearly did. He said Trump’s controversial summit with Kim Jong Un in 2019 was a success – despite little evidence of policy breakthroughs and public relations victory for North Korea. He defended Trump by saying he took Kim “at his word” that North Korea had not killed Otto Warmbier – claiming Trump’s statement did not accept the claim. And he defended Trump for ordering a strike on Iran and then calling it off at the last minute.

When he broke up with Trump: Even backing Trump’s summit with Kim, warmonger Bolton was considerably less optimistic about it. Towards the end of his term, Bolton increasingly broke with Trump, including over Trump’s push for a peace deal with the Taliban and over Ukraine – although he generally did so in private.

What he will write later: Bolton’s departure was less friendly than others — Trump claimed he fired Bolton, but Bolton said he offered his resignation ahead of time — and he offered Trump little praise at the time. era. Shortly after its release, and amid the simmering scandal in Ukraine, a draft of Bolton’s book was leaked, severely undermining Trump’s claim that his talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky were no quid pro quo. The book also contradicted a number of senior administration officials on the issue. Bolton would go on to say that virtually all of Trump’s foreign policy decisions were “driven by re-election calculations” and that Trump had sought re-election help from Chinese President Xi Jinping.

His explanation for not saying these things sooner: Still, Bolton refused to ignore White House objections and testify in Trump’s first impeachment – despite saying he was ready to do so if given the green light . He cited potential legal repercussions and later indicated that he did not believe his testimony would have changed the outcome of Trump’s impeachment.

Stephanie Grisham, White House Press Secretary

When she stood with Trump: In her role as White House spokeswoman, that was literally her job — though she did less than most because she never held a press briefing. She defended Trump by calling so-called Never Trump Republicans “human scum.” When former chief of staff John Kelly slammed Trump, she said, “I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our president.” After Trump suggested a deceased former congressional critic was in hell, she defended Trump as a “counter-puncher.”

When she broke up with Trump: Like others, Grisham resigned after Jan. 6 — that exact day, in fact — but she later claimed she was “done” with the White House six months prior. (She had moved from press secretary to a position on first lady Melania Trump’s team, where she had previously served.)

What she wrote later: She said that Trump told Vladimir Putin at a summit: “I’m going to act a little tougher on you for a few minutes.” But that’s for the cameras, and after they leave, we’ll talk. She said Trump ogled a young employee and made inappropriate sexual comments about himself and others. She said “the upcoming election has influenced every decision Trump makes regarding the pandemic.” She has said in book interviews that there was a “culture of abuse” in the White House. She said she was “terrified” by the possibility of another Trump term and regretted allowing White House dishonesty.

His explanation for not saying these things sooner: While in the White House, Grisham actually lamented that journalists “write books now. I mean, they all become famous because of this presidency. As for her own book and why she hasn’t spoken so much outside of that context — particularly about Jan. 6 — she told Business Insider, “I just needed time to be deprogrammed, and calm, and quiet, and just understanding, you know, where I stood on a lot of things.” She added, “And then I knew I was going to write the book, and I was put through a pretty heavy [nondisclosure agreement] gag order…”

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