That’s according to Mr Trump’s secretary of defense at the time, Mark Esper, in his upcoming memoir, A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times, which comes out on 10 May.
In the spring of 2020, as protests over the brutal police murder of George Floyd convulsed the country, Mr Esper says the former president grew increasingly furious at the demonstrators flooding the streets of the capital.“Can’t you just shoot them? Just shoot them in the legs or something?” Mr Trump allegedly asked, according to an excerpt obtained by Axios.
Mr Esper says the moment “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, DC.”
The top Pentagon official says he knew the answer was no – he just had to find the right way to say it.
“The good news – this wasn’t a difficult decision,” Mr 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.”
The excerpt confirms an account by the journalist Michael Bender, who reported the same violent commands in his book, Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost.
“Trump told his team that he wanted the military to go in and ‘beat the f*** out’ of the protesters,” Mr Bender writes, adding that Mr Trump repeatedly told members of his cabinet, “Just shoot them.”
When officials pushed back, Mr Bender says, the former president slightly softened his approach.
“Well, shoot them in the leg – or maybe the foot,” he reportedly said. “But be hard on them!”
Ultimately, no bullets were fired at any protesters (although police did use chemical agents to clear Lafayette Square). But Mr Trump continued to make the threat.
“When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” the former president tweeted on 29 May, 2020.
The Independent has reached out to Mr Trump’s spokesperson for comment.
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