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Mark Esper Wasn’t Surprised Trump Didn’t Fire Him Himself

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Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper spoke with Mediaite editor-in-chief Aidan McLaughlin for the latest episode of The Interview podcast, and shared how former President Donald Trump dodged direct confrontations when firing people, including when he removed Esper from his post.

In this segment, McLaughlin brought up a section of Esper’s new book, A Sacred Oath, that describes the dichotomy between the sharp businessman persona Trump cultivated on The Apprentice (with his infamous “You’re fired!” tagline) and the reality of how he managed the White House.

The full episode of Esper’s remarks will be published Monday morning here at Mediaite.

“You do write about that in the book, that despite Trump’s reputation for being a ruthless and decisive executive who never hesitates to fire people, he actually rarely worked that way,” said McLaughlin. “How did he operate?”

Trump “rarely gave orders,” said Esper. Instead he “would tend to kind of suggest or throw it out in the air, or to talk openly or muse about these things and hoping somebody would grasp on to it.”

This led to several “critical moments,” Esper described, in which he and other advisers like Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, Attorney General Bill Barr, or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “would able to push back on against some of the more outlandish ideas by folks around him and others,” and therefore “never got that direct order, which again gave us room” to push for “better options, better alternatives.”

Esper praised his fellow former Trump White House senior officials for acting “as teammates” in situations like this, “where we were able to push back on bad ideas and propose better ones.”

Trump “did eventually dismiss you as you, as you noted, via tweet,” said McLaughlin. “What was that like? Were you expecting that to come when it did finally happen?”

“I was surprised it took them a week,” replied Esper. “I thought that I would be fired the day after the election because at that point, at least, insiders thought that I had no utility to him, that the election was over. So I was surprised that we actually lasted that long.”

“But I was not surprised,” Esper continued, that “he wouldn’t do it himself.”

Instead, according to Esper, Trump had then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows call him up and say, “Look, the president’s firing you. He doesn’t feel you’re sufficiently loyal.”

“And my response to him is, that’s his prerogative,” said Esper, “but my oath is to the Constitution, not to him. And we both hang up and that’s it. That ends my tenure.”

Watch above, via The Interview.

You can subscribe to The Interview on Apple podcasts and Spotify.

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