Former President Donald Trump, who reportedly said that the person who leaked his whereabouts during the social justice protests outside the White House in June 2020 “should be executed,” was, in fact, “the biggest leaker of all,” according to a new book out today by Trump’s former defense secretary.
In A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times, Mark Esper describes how frequent leaks led to a poor work environment, with consequences for the nation. “The individual motivations for the leaks ranged from advancing a preferred policy outcome to enhancing the leaker’s own role or credentials to currying favor with the president,” Esper writes, according to Business Insider. “It was a noxious behavior learned from the top. The president was the biggest leaker of all. It turned colleague against colleague, department against department, and it was generally bad for the administration and the country.”
These leaks had a chilling effect on discussions among those in the administration, Esper notes, as people became “far more reluctant to speak up and share their views.”
“Nobody wanted to see their name in the morning news, especially when the words were so often twisted, misinterpreted, and taken out of context,” writes Esper, who launched an investigation into the leaks in July 2020. “In the Trump administration, this could get you blacklisted or fired.”
As president, Trump often engaged in diatribes about leakers and anonymous sources. In a 2018 tweet, he wrote that “leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!” In another, he urged his followers: “When you see ‘anonymous source,’ stop reading the story, it is fiction!”
But Trump also was known to push stories citing anonymous sources as long as they benefitted him, with a 2018 Daily Caller report about Hillary Clinton being one example. Also that year, according to former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s memoir, Trump himself told Axios that he was offering Christie the role of chief of staff. “I did it myself,” Trump said when Christie asked him who leaked the news, according to Christie’s book. “It was a great story, right? It was good for you and good for me. It was good.” Christie ultimately withdrew his name from consideration.
Other portions of Esper’s book detail how Trump suggested that Black Lives Matter protesters near the White House be shot, how he wondered why the U.S. military couldn’t just shoot missiles into Mexico to “destroy the drug labs” and then claim they had nothing to do with it, and how he wanted to shut down every single U.S. embassy in Africa.