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Key Words: Trump said ‘can’t you just shoot’ protesters in June 2020, former DOD secretary Mark Esper claims in new book

““Can’t you just shoot them? Just shoot them in the legs or something?””

That was allegedly former President Donald Trump suggesting that law enforcement fire upon the demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd in the streets around the White House during the first week of June 2020. 

That’s according to former defense secretary Mark Esper’s upcoming memoir, “A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times,” which hits shelves on May 10.

The Axios scoop that went viral on Monday morning cites Esper as writing that the situation “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.” 

“The good news — this wasn’t a difficult decision,” Esper writes. “The bad news — I had to figure out a way to walk Trump back without creating the mess I was trying to avoid.”

Esper still caught heat from then-President Trump, as reports circulated that the commander-in-chief came close to firing Esper (his fourth defense secretary) because he did not support Trump’s inclination to use active-duty troops to quell protests in Washington, D.C., Minneapolis and elsewhere following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. Trump did fire Esper following the 2020 election in November, and named Christopher C. Miller, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, as acting secretary of defense.

The Axios report states that Esper’s book was vetted “at the highest levels” of the Pentagon, being reviewed in whole or in part by almost three dozen 4-star generals, senior civilians and some Cabinet members. Some of them witnessed what Esper reported. 

But there was also some disagreement during the vetting process, with Esper filing a lawsuit against the Defense Department in November 2021 for “censoring” his First Amendment rights by redacting parts of his book, which he argued was “crucial to telling important stories discussed in the manuscript.” Esper dropped the suit in February 2022 after the Pentagon reversed its stance on “the overwhelming majority” of material that officials had deemed classified, and what remained in dispute wasn’t central to the book, according to his lawyer.

This aligns with what former Wall Street Journal reporter, now New York Times writer, Michael Bender published in his 2021 book, “Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost.” That tome also reports Trump repeatedly called for law enforcement to  “just shoot” protestors. The former president also reportedly said that the way “you’re supposed to handle these people” is to “crack their skulls!” 

And the book purports that Trump told his  team that he wanted the military to “beat the f— out of” the civil rights protesters, as CNN reported.

Representatives for Trump were not immediately available for comment on Monday. The Esper excerpt led the former Pentagon chief’s name to trend on Twitter on Monday morning with around 13,000 tweets.

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