Politics - News Analysis

Trump Wanted to Court Martial the Retired Navy SEAL Who Led the Bin Laden Raid for the Crime of … Criticizing Trump

When Donald Trump was president his Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley had the thankless task of placating him. I can’t help but think this must have been massively frustrating, especially since Trump’s feelings are paper-thin.

Nowhere is that clearer than the time in which he wanted to pull U.S. Navy Adm. William McRaven out of retirement so that he could court-martial the former Navy SEAL commander for having the temerity of criticizing him, Insider reports.

Trump has slammed retired Adm. William McRaven in the past as well, calling him a “Hillary Clinton fan.”

That’s according to Esper’s new book, A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times, which was published Tuesday.

Trump’s former Pentagon chief writes that he and Milley had to talk the ex-president out of a plan to recall McRaven and retired U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal to active duty so that he could try to implement court-martial proceedings for the two senior military officers.

“Doing this ‘will backfire on you Mr. President,’ we said,” Esper writes of a meeting held in May 2020.

At the time, Trump told Esper and Milley that McRaven and McChrystal were “so disloyal” because of what he believed they were doing and what they were saying about him. Esper described Trump as “spun up” by media stories in Breitbart that claimed McChrystal was telling Democrats how to use artificial intelligence to “track down and counter Trump supporters.”

Trump has also attacked retired four-star Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal in the past, calling him a “dog”.

And apparently, McRaven and McChrystal have gone against Trump in the past, which of course, simply served to make him angrier.

McChrystal, who served as the head of the Joint Special Operations Command from 2003 to 2008 and was later appointed head of all international forces in Afghanistan, undoubtedly wound up on Trump’s sh*t list after criticizing the then-president’s decision to remove U.S. troops from Syria, and then, at one point saying he believed Trump was immoral and “doesn’t tell the truth.”

McRaven is the former head of U.S. Special Operations Command and his military career included leading Operation Neptune Spear, the raid on Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. He repeatedly criticized Trump throughout his presidency.

Not long after Trump’s inauguration, McRaven began criticizing him for his constant attacks on members of the media, calling them “the greatest threat to democracy” in his lifetime.

Stanley McChrystal has repeatedly criticized Trump in the past, saying that the former president was immoral and did not tell the truth. | Steven Senne/AP Photo

Undoubtedly McRaven incurred Trump’s wrath on a number of occasions, especially after writing a 2017 op-ed for The Washington Post where he called out the then-president’s decision to revoke the security clearance for former CIA director John Brennan, describing it as an effort to “suppress freedom of speech and punish critics.” McRaven also said he would “consider it an honor” if his security clearance was also revoked.

McRaven gave numerous media interviews and wrote many more op-eds that were critical of Trump during his presidency. Insider notes it isn’t unusual for retired military officers to offer opinions that support or criticize a president, McRaven’s comments drew more attention because of his rank and notoriety.

Undoubtedly Trump didn’t handle any of this well and Esper writes that Milley was only able to get Trump to back down from his threats of going after the retired military officers by “promising to personally call the officers and ask them to dial it back.”

In an interview with Talking Points Memo, McChrystal said he didn’t remember receiving such a call from Milley.

Always remember that Esper was at Trump’s side when he marched over to St. John’s church for that ridiculous bible photo op. Now Esper’s writing a book and trying to profit from his time in the White House.
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

In his book, Esper writes that episodes like this were all-too-common in an administration that continually blurred the lines between politics and the management of America’s defense. Current and former commanders were frequently targeted in loyalty purges.

“Worse yet, people were removed from posiitons simply because the White House wanted to replace them with more hard-core Trump loyalists, regardless of qualifications,” Esper writes. He was, of course, a frequent target of Trump’s anger and was fired shortly after Trump lost the 2020 election.

Being the 75-year-old toddler that he is, Trump has been attacking Esper’s book and calling him “Yesper” and saying he had to “run the military” himself. Trump’s behavior has always been childish and he’s no different now. But at least he isn’t embarrassing the country anymore. There’s that at least.

meet the author

Megan has lived in California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida and she currently lives in Central America. Living in these places has informed her writing on politics, science, and history. She is currently owned by 15 cats and 3 dogs and regularly owns Trump supporters when she has the opportunity. She can be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/GaiaLibra and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/politicalsaurus

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