Mark Esper “60 Minutes” interview: Key takeaways

Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told CBS in an interview aired Sunday that he helped prevent a series of “dangerous things that could have taken the country in a dark direction” during his time in the Trump administration.

Driver news: When CBS ‘Norah O’Donnell asked Esper during the “60 Minutes” interview for examples, he quoted a proposal to “take military action against Venezuela”, to “attack Iran” and “at one point someone suggested that we block Cuba. “

Link: O’Donnell noted during the program that Ukraine was an “early source of tension” between Esper and then-President Trump.

  • Esper documents in his book, “A Sacred Oath”, that two days after his confirmation in the Senate in 2019, Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for a “service” during a phone call for assistance to the country, which ultimately led to Trump’s first trial.
  • Esper agreed with O’Donnell that he had to keep pushing Trump to release $ 250 million in aid to Ukraine. “It would be a quarrel after a quarrel. And I would have to say, ‘Look here, Mr President, at the end of the day, Congress appropriated. That’s the law. We have to do it, “he added.

Zoom in: Esper said such ideas would emerge at different times, “probably the last year of the administration.”

  • “These ideas would apparently happen every few weeks,” Esper said. “Something like that would show up and we would have to knock them down.”
  • O’Donnell asked Esper, “Who is ‘we had to smash them down’?”
  • “Mostly me,” he replied. “I had the good support of General Mark Milley.”

The big picture: Esper’s interview follows a series of revealing allegations he makes about his time in the Trump administration, including investigating the possibility of secretly firing missiles into Mexico and asking if people protesting George Floyd’s death could be shot in the leg.

  • During his “60 Minutes” interview, Esper also said that then-President Trump was discussing sending 10,000 active troops to Washington, DC, following a small fire in historic St. Louis. John’s Episcopal Church during protests against racial injustice.
  • Trump denied this and several other allegations from Esper in a statement to CBS:

Nothing worthwhile: During his interview, Esper also described the performance of President Biden’s administration in response to the Russian military invasion of Ukraine as “mixed.”

  • “They had a shaky start,” Esper said. “For example, I would never have taken the military option off the table. I do not understand the reluctance to supply the Ukrainians with MiGs,” he continued, referring to fighter jets.
  • “But since then it has taken up. I think we are now flowing more supplies and materials and weapons into Ukraine,” he added. “I think they have done a good job of bringing in the Allies, which is important.”
  • Esper also praised the Congress for being united in its support for Ukraine. “And in some ways, they’ve led the administration,” he said. “So it is good now to see the Congress and the executive acting together, reasonably coordinated, to help the Ukrainian people.”
  • Representatives of the Pentagon did not immediately respond to Axios’ request for comment on Esper’s remarks about Milley.
  • Representatives of the White House, State Department, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser also did not respond to requests for comment.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with new details throughout

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