Trump calls Esper’s claims that the former president wanted to shoot protesters ‘a complete lie’

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Donald Trump is hitting back at former Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s claims that the former president wanted to shoot demonstrators who filled the streets around the White House during protests in June 2020. 

Esper made the claims in his forthcoming book, “A Sacred Oath,” writing that Trump also wanted to deploy 10,000 troops in Washington, D.C. to quell the protests. 

“He says, ‘Can’t you just shoot them? Just shoot them in the legs or something.’ And he’s suggesting that that’s what we should do, that we should bring in the troops and shoot the protesters,” Esper, who was fired by Trump days after his 2020 election loss, told 60 Minutes host Norah O’Donnell about the Oval Office meeting on June 1, 2020. 

President Donald Trump speaks during an event on police reform, in the Rose Garden of the White House in June 2020. 

President Donald Trump speaks during an event on police reform, in the Rose Garden of the White House in June 2020.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Trump called Esper’s claims a “complete lie” in a statement to 60 Minutes, saying that 10 witnesses would back him up. 

“Mark Esper was weak and totally ineffective, and because of it, I had to run the military. I took out ISIS, Qasem Soleimani, al-Baghdadi, rebuilt the military with $2.5 trillion, created Space Force, and so much more,” Trump said in the statement. “Mark Esper was a stiff who was desperate not to lose his job.” Trump added, “He would do anything I wanted, that’s why I called him ‘Yesper.’”

Esper’s book was reviewed by nearly three dozen 4-star generals, civilians, and Cabinet members, some of whom were present at the relevant meetings, according to Axios, who originally reported the excerpt earlier this week. 

Trump said at a Rose Garden press conference on the evening of June 1, 2020, that he is “dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and wanton destruction of property,” which would require the invocation of the 1807 Insurrection Act. 

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It came during the peak of protests in the spring of 2020 over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, with thousands of protesters taking to the streets in the Capital and other cities around America, some of whom set fires and vandalized property. 

“It really caught my attention, and I thought, that – we’re at a different spot now. He’s gonna finally give a direct order to deploy paratroopers into the streets of Washington, D.C. And I’m thinking with weapons and bayonets. This would be horrible,” Esper said on 60 Minutes. 

Trump said that Esper’s claims that he wanted to send 10,000 troops into the streets of the Capital are “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. Nancy Pelosi and the D.C. Mayor turned me down,” the former president said. 

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaks to members of the media during a news conference at the Pentagon Briefing Room in Washington, on Monday, March 23, 2020. 

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaks to members of the media during a news conference at the Pentagon Briefing Room in Washington, on Monday, March 23, 2020.  (Army Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia/Department of Defense via AP)

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Esper made several other explosive claims in his book, including that Trump proposed firing missiles at cartels in Mexico and wanted to kill a top Iranian military officer shortly before the 2020 election. 

When asked about the claim that he wanted to target cartels with missiles, Trump simply told 60 Minutes, “No comment.” 

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