On Tuesday, NBC News held an interview with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who denied advance knowledge of the White House’s actions against peaceful protesters the day before.
“I thought I was going to do two things: to see some damage and to talk to the troops,” said Esper. “I didn’t know where I was going. I wanted to see how much damage actually happened.” He said he believed they were only going to observe the damage to the bathroom in Lafayette Square, which had been vandalized.
Esper also said that he had “no idea” beforehand that the White House was planning to deploy gas and rubber bullets against the protesters before President Donald Trump paid a visit to St. John’s Church across the street.
In a recent phone call with governors, Esper raised eyebrows by saying they must “dominate the battlespace” to control the demonstrations against the George Floyd killing. White House sources told The Daily Beast that Esper was likely trying to win Trump’s approval by using this rhetoric.