Defense

Esper says Trump wanted to reactivate McChrystal, McRaven to court-martial them over criticism

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper says in a new memoir released Tuesday that former President Trump wanted to reactivate a retired Navy admiral and a former Army general so he could court martial them over their criticism of him.

Esper, Trump and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attended a meeting in May 2020 regarding former Navy Adm. William McRaven and former Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal — and Trump’s frustrations with them, according to Esper’s “A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times,” which was obtained and reported on by Talking Points Memo.

Esper wrote that “the president told Milley and me that he ‘want[ed] to call them back to active duty and court-martial them’ for what they said,”  

“Mark Milley and I were sitting in front of the president trying to talk him out of recalling McChrystal to active duty,” he added.

“So disloyal,” Trump allegedly complained.

He backed off from his threats, Esper wrote, following a promise from Milley “that he would personally call the officers and ask them to dial it back.”

Esper noted that right-wing news outlets had been reporting at the time that the Democratic Party was being advised by McChrystal on fighting Trump’s reelection through the use of artificial intelligence technology, which the former Defense secretary said “spun up the president.”

According to Talking Points Memo, the reports were referring to Defeat Disinfo, a political action committee aligned with the Democratic Party that sought to curb COVID-19 misinformation through technology and that had hired McChrystal.

The two retired four-star officers have been critics of Trump on multiple occasions, including McRaven calling his attacks on the news media the “greatest threat to democracy” in his lifetime and McChrystal slamming the Trump-ordered U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria. 

Talking Points Memo reported that McChrystal said by email that “there was no call I remember — and I would have remembered that,” adding that it was the first he’d heard of the incident.

The Hill has reached out to a Trump spokesperson, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the McChrystal Group, of which McChrystal is a co-founder. The Hill could not immediately contact McRaven for comment. 

Following an interview Esper did with “60 Minutes” in advance of his book, Trump slammed his former Defense chief in a statement, calling him “a lightweight and figurehead.”

“Mark Esper was weak and totally ineffective and because of it, I had to run the military,” Trump said.

Tags Donald Trump Mark Esper Mark Milley Stanley McChrystal William McRaven

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