Mark Esper says he prevented 'dangerous things' like military action against Venezuela and a blockade of Cuba while serving under Trump

Mark Esper says he prevented 'dangerous things' like military action against Venezuela and a blockade of Cuba while serving under Trump
President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary Mark Esper in the White House's press briefing room on April 1, 2020.Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • Mark Esper said he managed to prevent some "dangerous things" while serving Trump.
  • He said on CBS that "every few weeks," ideas would come up, which he would have to "swat" down.

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that he prevented "dangerous things" from happening during his time in the Trump administration.

Esper, whose memoir "A Sacred Oath" is due for release on Tuesday, talked about his time working for former President Donald Trump during an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" aired on Sunday.

Speaking to host Norah O'Donnell, Esper said he wrote about his tensions with Trump because "it's important to the republic, the American people, that they understand what was going on in this very consequential period."

He pointed specifically to the last year of the Trump administration, saying that his memoir also tells "the story about things we prevented."

"Really bad things. Dangerous things that could have taken the country in a dark direction," Esper said.


In response to O'Donnell's question about what he prevented, Esper recalled the various proposals raised during Trump's last year in office.

According to Esper, these ideas included "proposing to take military action against Venezuela" and a possible strike on Iran.

"At one point, somebody proposed we blockade Cuba," Esper said. "These ideas would happen, it seemed every few weeks. Something like this would come up, and we'd have to swat 'em down," he added.

Esper elaborated that it was "mostly" him doing the swatting, although he received "good support" from Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He recalled how he and Milley even came up with a system to reject the ideas.


"I come up with this idea. Actually, Mark Milley and I discussed it — what we call the "Four No's." The four things we had to prevent from happening between then and the election," Esper told O'Donnell.

"And one was no strategic retreats, no unnecessary wars, no politicization of the military, and no misuse of the military. And so, as we went through the next five to six months, that became the metric by which we would measure things," Esper added.

In the same interview, Esper also said that it took "argument after argument" with Trump to persuade the latter to release $250 million in aid to Ukraine.

"And I'd have to say, 'Look, Mr. President, at the end of the day, Congress appropriated. It's the law. We have to do it,'" said Esper.

Media outlets have been reporting on excerpts from Esper's upcoming book, which includes recollections of how Trump wanted to "shoot" those protesting the May 2020 killing of George Floyd and how the former president once suggested that the US launch missiles into Mexico to "destroy the drug labs."