Mark Esper details 'yelling match' where Mark Meadows told him not to make announcements about the Navy
Gage Skidmore.

Among the stories former Defense Secretary Mark Esper tells in his new book is that he and chief of staff Mark Meadows got into a lot of screaming matches.

Detailed in A Sacred Oath, Esper recalled work he did with Congress to free up cash for a certain military program that would have negated the need to ask for another appropriation.

Esper introduced the initiative in a speech, leading to a freakout at the White House. They appeared to want to make the announcement so that Trump could take credit for it. It was Oct. 6, 2020, less than a month before election day when some had already even voted.

"Chief of Staff Mark Meadows even got involved," Esper recalled. "Indeed, he and I got into a yelling match not long after I briefed Battle Force 2045 to the public. He had the nerve to ask in a phone call, 'Who are you to make a major announcement about the Navy?'”

Esper shouted back: “I’m the goddamn secretary of defense!”

"There was a brief pause -- I imagined him turning red and eyes watering, as so often happened when he was confronted -- and then he said, 'Who gave you the authority?'" Esper went on, describing a pouting Meadows.

“The Senate confirmed me, and Congress gave me full authority, direction, and control over the Department of Defense under Title 10 of the law, that’s who," Esper said.

He went on to describe Meadows as a tea party Republican "who seemed committed to two things: getting the president reelected and doing what the president said. It was never clear to me which of those two came first, but there were indications at times that his own personal political ambitions and policy aims factored into both as well."

Meadows went silent on the phone to Esper, who just hung up on him.

Another fight broke out when there was a question about whether Trump would implement the Insurrection Act during the George Floyd protests. Trump got Esper and Gen. Mark Milley to serve as the background for his stroll across Lafayette Park to St. John's church for a photo op. Esper made it clear in a press conference that he opposed the use of the Insurrection Act on the Black Lives Matter protesters.

Trump was furious. Meadows called Esper at home, telling him that he should sign a letter to the president essentially saying he didn't mean anything he said in the briefing, as if it would make it go away.

"Meadows and I went back and forth about what exactly the letter would say, with me curious as to how ridiculous he wanted this letter to be," Esper wrote. "Not surprisingly, the president was still angry and itching to fire me, Meadows implied. He thought that sending such a note 'would go a long way to calming the president down.'"

Esper refused.

Then Meadows called a second time, as if he thought of another way of trying to persuade Esper to sign the letter.

"This time he took a far different tack with a much more aggressive tone. The Tony Soprano approach. He started by saying, 'If you don’t send the letter, . . . I will trash you with the press' and that he would go after my integrity. I could picture him on the other end of the phone, getting red-faced as he often did when others challenged him or stumped him with a question or comment. I just couldn’t believe he threatened me; at least he was being honest. It really got my Irish up, however. Now I was a double no. I hung up."

A third phone call from Meadows was an apology saying he was "part of the team" which Esper said he found "bizarre."

Read more coverage of Esper's book, which is for sale now.

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