New York (CNN)The Department of Defense fought to prevent Mark Esper, the former secretary of defense, from revealing in his forthcoming book that former President Donald Trump had proposed launching missiles into Mexico to destroy drug labs.
The passage in the book, “A Sacred Oath,” which is out Tuesday, was a “major” sticking point when Esper submitted his manuscript for agency review, people familiar with the matter told CNN on Friday.
The resistance over the matter was, in part, what led to Esper suing the agency he once led and accusing it of improper censorship, the people said.
“They were particularly worried about this because of the potential to upset relations between the US and Mexico,” one of the people explained to CNN.
“They objected to it vehemently,” the person added.
Spokespeople for the Defense Department did not dispute CNN’s reporting when asked for comment on Friday.
Instead, a Defense Department spokesperson said, “We followed each of our long established protocols and policies, as we do for every book that is submitted for pre-publication review. Beyond that, we’ve nothing to offer.”
Members of the executive branch are required to submit book manuscripts for agency review in order to ensure that they do not contain sensitive material, such as classified information. The process, however, is not meant to be used to withhold information from the public only because it might be embarrassing to the government or officials who serve or have served within it.
Esper has claimed that, in his case, the process went awry.
In a lawsuit filed after he submitted his manuscript, Esper alleged that the Defense Department, which by that point was part of the Biden administration, “improperly withheld” what he described as “significant text” under “the guise of classification.”
Esper eventually dropped the lawsuit because the Pentagon reversed course on the “overwhelming majority” of material at issue, his lawyer, Mark Zaid, said at the time.
The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman first reported on Thursday Esper’s claim in the book about Trump floating the idea of firing missiles into Mexico to “destroy the drug labs” and “take out the cartels.”
In the passage, a copy of which CNN obtained, Esper described the conversations as “quite troubling” and said that if he “hadn’t seen the look on the president’s face,” he would have “thought it was all a joke.”
A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
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