Former Trump defense secretary breaks with ex-president over classified documents

Mark Esper
Army Secretary Mark Esper speaks at the Atlantic Council in Washington D.C., Tuesday, May 1st, 2018. (Graeme Jennings/Washington Examiner)

Former Trump defense secretary breaks with ex-president over classified documents

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Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper argued that former President Donald Trump, under whom he served, can’t be trusted to safeguard the nation’s secrets if the allegations against him are accurate.

Esper is the latest former Trump official to criticize the former commander in chief for allegedly taking classified documents and obstructing a federal investigation into getting them back. Some of the documents involved national security intelligence that could have put military lives at risk should those unsecured documents have fallen into the wrong hands.


“The revelations are very troubling, disturbing, and yes, I do. If the allegations are true that it contained information about our nation’s security, about our vulnerabilities, about other items, it could be quite harmful to the nation,” Esper said on CNN on Sunday. “No one is above the law, and so I think this process needs to play out and people held to account, the president held to account.”

The FBI seized 102 documents from an office, a bedroom, a ballroom, a bathroom, and a storage room at Mar-a-Lago. 54 were marked secret, and 17 were top secret. The classified documents included secrets about U.S. nuclear capabilities, America’s potential vulnerabilities to attack, and contingency plans for U.S. retaliation, according to the government’s 49-page indictment.

When asked if Trump could be entrusted with the nation’s security, the former secretary of defense answered, “Based on his actions — again, if proven true under the indictment by the special counsel — no.”

“I mean, it’s just irresponsible action that places our service members at risk, places our nation’s security at risk. You cannot have these documents floating around. They need to be secured. We know how that happens. The only authorized persons that are allowed to receive documents or receive information from documents. So we’ve got to take this very seriously. These are serious issues,” he said.

The former president was charged with 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information, one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, one count of withholding a document or record, one count of corruptly concealing a document or record, one count of concealing a document in a federal investigation, one count for a scheme to conceal, and one count related to alleged false statements.


He appeared in federal court for his arraignment in Miami last week, where he pleaded not guilty.

The Pentagon has largely avoided discussing the former president’s case, including Gen. Mark Milley, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who declined to comment at a press conference last Thursday.

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