Given the heated debate, it is worth looking at exactly what four of them – Esper, William P. Barr, John Bolton and Stephanie Grisham – said during their tenure as they traveled and when they decided to finally say from.
Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper
When he stood by Trump: Esper generally ruled around political affairs. But during a call with governors amid racial justice demonstrations in the summer of 2020, Esper Trump reiterated his call for a tough approach: “I think the faster you massage and dominate the battle room, the faster this disappears and we can get back to the right normal. ” Esper soon appeared for a political photo shoot in a church after police forcibly cleared Lafayette Square outside the White House. Esper also defended Trump in September 2020 amid a report that Trump had degraded troops, emphasizing Trump’s respect for troops, while not directly denying the report.
When he broke up with Trump: Despite comments on the governors’ call, Esper was internally opposed to Trump’s idea of using 10,000 active troops to crack down on the demonstrations, and he acknowledged that he was wrong both in his choice of words and in appearing at the photo shoot. He also publicly reprimanded, if indirectly, Trump’s idea of using the Uprising Act to quell the demonstrations, as well as Trump’s idea of illegally bombing Iranian cultural sites. Esper also alienated Trump by banning the Confederate flag at military bases and believed in intelligence reports that Russian soldiers had offered Taliban fighting gifts to kill Americans – which Trump had described as a “hoax.”
What he later wrote: In Esper’s new book, he confirms that Trump hovered the idea of shooting protesters in the leg and says that Trump also somehow secretly proposed bombing drug cartels on Mexican soil. (He says the latter would be an “act of war” and illegal.) He also writes that Trump wanted to stand trial for two prominent generals, Stanley McChrystal and William H. McRaven, who had criticized him. He has also said in book-related interviews that Trump is a threat to democracy and that Trump effectively incited the unrest on January 6, 2021.
His explanation for not saying these things earlier and risking being fired: He told The Post, “I do not know who is coming in behind me and I did not trust that they would do the things that I did – that they would push back. My concern was that they would actually implement some of these weird ideas. ” But that leads to the question: Why not speak out after Trump fired him in November 2020?
Advocate General William P. Barr
When he stood by Trump: Again and again, Barr intervened in unorthodox ways in legal matters in favor of Trump allies. He provided Trump with a politically useful and misleading summary of the Mueller report. He launched an investigation into the Russia investigation itself, which Trump had repeatedly requested. After the election, Barr also encountered the DOJ’s protocol and broke into Trump’s election conspiracy theories by announcing that the DOJ would investigate “irregularities in the voting table.”
When he broke up with Trump: Barr declined to hold a press conference in which he acquits Trump of guilt in the Ukraine scandal. And after the 2020 election, he ultimately rebuked Trump’s allegations of voter fraud, saying in early December 2020: “So far, we have not seen fraud to an extent that could have caused a different outcome in the election.”
What he later wrote: Under pressure from Trump to step down, Barr was only praised by the president at his exit in December 2020: “Your record is all the more historic because you achieved it in the face of relentless, irreconcilable resistance.” In his book, however, Barr more directly rebuked Trump’s allegations of massive voter fraud, writing that he compared them to cattle excrement in a meeting with Trump. He also told Jonathan Karl that he had in fact already reached this conclusion when he announced that the DOJ would investigate such cases in November 2020. He also said publicly, just as Esper did, that Trump was “responsible in a broad sense” for 6 January.
His explanation for not having said these things before: While grilling from NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, Barr stressed that his resignation came after the Electoral College voted on December 14, 2020. “The idea that something could be done later on January 6 was nonsense. When the election was locked on December 14, I offered my resignation and I knew Trump would leave office. ” But like Esper’s explanation, it ignores how much this information could have been useful even shortly after his departure – both during Trump’s trial and to prevent the events of January 6.
National Security Adviser John Bolton
When he stood by Trump: He reiterated Trump’s questioning of Russia’s assistance to Trump’s campaign in 2016, suggesting in late 2016 that it could have been a “false flag.” He also later claimed that Trump did not doubt Russia’s interference in his “hoax” talk, even though Trump had clearly done so. He stated that Trump’s controversial summit with Kim Jong Un in 2019 had been a success – despite little evidence of political progress and the PR victory for North Korea. He defended Trump, saying he took Kim “on word” that North Korea did not kill Otto Warmbier – pretending that Trump’s statement did not accept the claim. And he defended that Trump had ordered an attack on Iran and then canceled at the last minute.
When he broke up with Trump: Even when he supported Trump’s summit with Kim, the hawkish Bolton was significantly less happy about it. Towards the end of his term, Bolton increasingly broke with Trump, including most notably Trump’s push for a peace deal with the Taliban and Ukraine – although he generally did so privately.
What he later wrote: Bolton’s departure was less amicable than the others – Trump claimed he had fired Bolton, but Bolton said he had offered his resignation in advance – and he offered little in the way of praise for Trump at the time. Shortly after his exit, and in the midst of the looming Ukraine scandal, a draft of Bolton’s book was leaked, severely undermining Trump’s claim that his talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did not correspond to a counterclaim. The book also contradicted a number of top administration officials in the case. Bolton would go on to say that virtually all of Trump’s foreign policy decisions were “driven by re-election calculations,” and that Trump sought help for his re-election from Chinese President Xi Jinping.
His explanation for not having said these things before: Despite all this, Bolton refused to disregard objections from the White House and testify at Trump’s first state court trial – despite saying he was willing to do so if given the green light. He cited potential legal consequences and later reflected that he did not believe his testimony would have changed the outcome of Trump’s trial.
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham
When she stood by Trump: In her role as White House spokeswoman, this was literally her job – even though she did it less than most because she never actually held a news briefing. She defended Trump, calling the so-called Never Trump Republicans “human scum.” When former chief of staff John Kelly criticized Trump, she said, “I worked with John Kelly and he was totally unprepared to deal with our president’s genius.” After Trump suggested that a deceased former congressional critic was in hell, she defended Trump as an “opponent.”
When she broke up with Trump: Like some others, Grisham resigned after January 6 – in fact, exactly that day – but she later claimed she had been “done” with the White House for six months before. (She had been moved from press secretary to a job on First Lady Melania Trump’s team, where she had previously served.)
What she later wrote“She said that Trump told Vladimir Putin at a summit:” I will behave a little harder towards you for a few minutes. But it’s for the cameras, and when they’re gone, we’ll talk. She said Trump looked at a young female employee and made inappropriate sexual comments about herself and others. She said that “the upcoming election affected every decision Trump made about the pandemic.” She said in book interviews that there was a “abuse culture” in the White House. ” She said she was “intimidated” by the possibility of another Trump term, lamenting that she made the White House ‘dishonesty possible.
Her explanation for not having said these things before: While in the White House, Grisham actually lamented that journalists “wrote books now. I mean, they’re all getting famous by this presidency.” As for her own book, and why she did not talk so much outside that context – especially on January 6 – she told Business Insider: “I just needed some time to get de-programmed, and calm and quiet and just find out, you know, where I stood on many things. ” She added: “And then I knew I was going to write the book and I was put under a pretty heavy [nondisclosure agreement] gag order… ”