Secretary of Defense Mark Esper inadvertently provided fodder to those who believe that Donald Trump’s mental deterioration requires the invocation of the 25th Amendment this morning during his appearance on CNN‘s State of the Union.
Speaking with host Jake Tapper who pressed Esper on the intelligence behind the president’s claims that his orders to assassinate Iranian General Qassim Suleimani were motivated by supposedly “imminent” attacks on four U.S. embassies including one in Baghdad, the Defense chief danced around the actual intelligence received by the White House.
While Esper seemed comfortable revealing that “there was intelligence that there was an intent to target the U.S. embassy in Baghdad” — pointedly omitting any reference to the actual intelligence regarding the timing and imminence of such plans — he shifted to remarkably squirrely language when it came to discussing Trump’s claims that four embassies were facing definitively impending danger.
Prefacing his remarks with a careful reassurance to the president that what Trump said is what he believes as well, Esper moved the discussion from what the intelligence reports actually said to what the president “believes.”
“He said that he believed that they probably, that they could have been targeting the embassies in their region. I believe that as well, as did other national security team members,” the Defense Secretary said. (Emphasis added for clarity.)
Jake Tapper noted Esper’s evasion of the question about any direct evidence of the president’s claims of the “imminence” of attacks on four U.S. embassies contained in the intelligence reports received by the White House and pressed the Defense Secretary on the point, asking about specific intel reports regarding threats to the four diplomatic facilities.
Esper flat out refused to answer that question, saying:
“I’m not going to discuss intelligence matters here on the show,” the Secretary of Defense said, despite having just done so a minute earlier.
Tapper continued to press Esper, pointing out that belief is not the same as evidence.
Esper cited the intelligence community’s evidence of the supposedly planned attack on the Baghdad embassy, but when Tapper asked about the evidence of Trump’s claims that four embassies were being targeted, he immediately reverted to saying that he would not discuss intelligence — except of course in his previous sentence.
The subsequent sentence of his reply offers the best indication that no such intelligence actually exists to bolster the president’s statements regarding the imminence and multiple locations of the threat posed by Suleimani and Iran, and amounted to a subtle throwing of Trump under the bus.
“What the president said was that he believed that he probably could have been. He didn’t cite intelligence,” Esper made clear.
Later, on CBS Face the Nation, Esper went a step further when asked if he’d seen the evidence of a threat as Trump described. “I didn’t see one,” Esper replied flatly contradicting the president’s justification for bringing the U.S. to the brink of war.
Defense Secretary Epser: "I didn't see" specific evidence that showed Iran planned to strike four U.S. embassies. pic.twitter.com/4j2GgIIirL
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 12, 2020
The refusal to discuss the actual intelligence available to back up Trump’s beliefs — which have in the past been proven to include such demonstrably false assertions as Barack Obama was born in Kenya and that windmills cause cancer — is particularly incriminating given that the only thing that would prevent the legitimate prosecution of the president on war crimes charges for his assassination of Suleimani would be the existence of a truly imminent attack by Iran or its proxies, not vague plans for a future assault.
With The Wall Street Journal reporting that Trump reportedly told associates that “he was under pressure to deal with Gen. Soleimani from GOP senators he views as important supporters in his coming impeachment trial in the Senate,” the administration’s claims about any intelligence supporting the imminence of the attacks that would exonerate Trump of a war crime is highly suspect.
Esper’s refusal to discuss the intelligence behind Trump’s claims of four embassies being in imminent danger leads skeptics to believe that it simply doesn’t exist. And why should the “beliefs” of a demonstrable liar — or self-preserving delusions as some may label them — be worth more than those skeptics who demand proof of his likely bogus excuses?
The question raised by Esper’s evasiveness is why should America tolerate the continuance of a mentally deluded individual in the office of the presidency. If impeachment seems too harsh for Senate Republicans worried about the blowback from Trump supporters on their own reelections, the invocation of the 25th Amendment could be the easily justified way out of America’s current predicament.
You can see a clip of Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s appearance on CNN‘s State of the Union in the video below.
On CNN, Mark Esper makes it absolutely clear that the Trump administration is making it up as they go when they claim Soleimani posed an imminent threat to 4 different US embassies pic.twitter.com/Cm16XkOrlo
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 12, 2020
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.