During the BLM riots in the summer of 2020, 45th President Donald Trump allegedly floated a military response to Black Lives Matter rioters, but was refused by the military and Secretary of Defense.
According to a new memoir from former Defense Secretary Mark Esper that is set to be released next week, Trump was infuriated with the violence that was erupting on the streets of the country following the release of video showing the death of George Floyd at the end of May 2020.
Esper said that 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.”
“Can’t you just shoot them,” Trump queried his top team about the BLM rioters, Esper claims. “Just shoot them in the legs or something,” he allegedly added, demanding a military response to the situation.
However, the President was rebuffed by a number of individuals, including General Mark Milley, former Attorney General Bill Barr, and Esper himself.
The former Defense Secretary said it wasn’t a “difficult decision” to ignore the President’s request, but that he was stuck trying to “figure out a way to walk Trump back without creating the mess I was trying to avoid.”
Esper came out publicly against the need for a military response to the BLM protests in June of 2020, appearing on NBC News to oppose the invocation of the 1807 Insurrection Act, and argued that “the option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used… in the most urgent and dire of situations,” which he claimed they were not in at the time.
The quote from Trump reported by Esper matches up with conversations previously disclosed by journalist Michael Bender in his 2021 book, “Frankly, We Did Win This Election.” Bender alleged that Trump would show videos of rioters being met with physical force by police to his cabinet as a positive model to follow.
“That’s how you’re supposed to handle these people,” President Trump allegedly told top military officials, which may have included Esper. Other comments from the President allegedly called for the police to “beat the f**k” out of the rioters, and “crack their skulls.”
Esper, who was fired after the presidential election in November 2020, sued the Department of Defense last year for allegedly censoring sections of his memoir.
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