Defense Department tried to stop Esper from revealing in book that Trump launched missiles into Mexico to ‘destroy’ drug labs

The passage from the book, “A Sacred Oath,” which comes out Tuesday, was a “major” sticking point when Esper submitted his manuscript for the agency’s review, people familiar with the matter told CNN on Friday.

Resistance to this was, in part, what led Esper to sue the agency he once ran and accuse it of improper censorship, the people said.

“They were particularly concerned about the possibility of upsetting the relationship between the United States and Mexico,” one of the people explained to CNN.

“They vehemently opposed it,” the person added.

Defense Department spokespersons did not dispute CNN’s reporting when asked to comment on Friday.

Instead, a Department of Defense spokesperson said: “We followed each of our long-established protocols and policies, as we do with every book submitted for pre-publication review. beyond that, we have nothing to offer.”

Members of the executive branch are required to submit book manuscripts for agency review to ensure they do not contain sensitive material, such as classified information. The process, however, is not intended to be used to withhold information from the public solely because it might be embarrassing to the government or officials who serve or have served in it.

Esper claimed that, in his case, the process went wrong.

In a lawsuit filed after he submitted his manuscript, Esper alleged that the Department of Defense, then part of the Biden administration, “improperly withheld” what he described as “meaningful text” under “the cover of a classification”.

Esper ultimately dropped the lawsuit because the Pentagon reversed course on the “overwhelming majority” of the documents at issue, his attorney, Mark Zaid, said at the time.

Maggie Haberman of The New York Times first reported on Thursday Esper’s claim in the book that Trump floated the idea of ​​firing missiles at Mexico to “destroy drug labs” and “eliminate cartels.” “.

In the passage, which CNN obtained a copy of, Esper described the conversations as “quite disturbing” and said that if he “hadn’t seen the look on the president’s face,” he would have “thought everything that was a joke.”

A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can register for free here.

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