Mark Esper says he was 'flabbergasted' by Stephen Miller's plan to send 250,000 troops to the US Southern border
- Mark Esper says Trump adviser Stephen Miller wanted to send 250,000 troops to the US-Mexico border.
- The former defense secretary detailed the plan in an interview with CBS News' "60 Minutes."
Former US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper says he was "flabbergasted" by the Trump White House's "absurd" plan to send 250,000 active-duty troops to the US-Mexico border.
Esper, speaking to CBS' "60 Minutes" for an interview ahead of the Tuesday release of his tell-all memoir, says he first heard about the plan from then-senior adviser Stephen Miller, a hardline immigration hawk.
"He's behind me, and this voice just starts talking about 'caravans are coming, and we need to get troops to the border, and we need a quarter of a million troops, and I think he's joking," Esper told CBS' Norah O'Donnell. "And then I turn around and look at him, at these deadpan eyes, and clearly, he is not joking."
Esper says he countered Miller by stating that the Department of Homeland Security could handle any influxes of migrants. But Miller insisted on a major troop presence.
"I just turn squarely around to him, facing him, and say, 'I don't have a quarter of a million troops to send on some ridiculous mission to the border,'" Esper said.
Esper then relayed the conversation to Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to "check and make sure" such a plan wasn't actually in motion within the White House.
"Milley comes back days later, and the door opens up, and he's waving a document in his hands, and says something like, 'Secretary you're not going to believe this,'" Esper said.
"And that's when he explains to me that yes, they were working, that we had developed a plan, an initial concept of how this might happen, and I was just flabbergasted that not only was the idea proposed, but people in my department were working on it," he added.
Esper called the idea "so absurd I can't even consider it."
"Again, we don't have 250,000 US troops to send to the border. And to do what? It's just ridiculous," Esper said.
—60 Minutes (@60Minutes) May 5, 2022
Esper's memoir, "A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times," is due for release on May 10. In the book, Esper details his clashes with the Trump White House during his tenure as secretary and the tumult throughout 2020.
Other books published about the final year of the Trump administration reveal how Esper repeatedly clashed with Trump over both immigration and border security, and how the US military should respond to protests and riots over racial injustice in the summer of 2020 following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.
And, as a result of Trump's dissatisfaction with him, Esper was one of the first high-ranking officials on the chopping block after the 2020 election. Esper details in his book that Trump wanted to 'shoot' protesters in their legs, Axios previously reported.
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