Trump administration officials were preparing to send a quarter of a million troops to the U.S.-Mexico border before former Defense Secretary Mark Esper shot the plan down, Esper said in an interview airing Sunday.
Former Trump advisor Stephen Miller was behind the effort to deploy 250,000 troops to the border to mitigate the flow of migrant caravans, Esper said during an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” about his upcoming book. Esper said he was ultimately able to kill the plan after getting Gen. Mark Milley involved.
“It’s just so absurd. I can’t even consider it. I mean, again, we don’t even have 250,000 troops to send to the border. And to do what? It’s just ridiculous,” Esper said.
Esper was in the Oval Office waiting for President Trump with Miller when he first heard of the idea, which he said shocked him.
“We’re in a meeting waiting for the president to come out. We’re standing around the resolute desk, and he’s behind me and this voice just starts talking about caravans are coming and we need a quarter million troops,” Esper said.
“And I think he’s joking. And then I turn around and look at him and these dead pan eyes. It’s clear that he is not joking,” he added.
"We had developed a plan, initial concept of how [sending 250,000 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border] might happen. And I was just flabbergasted," former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper tells @NorahODonnell.
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) May 5, 2022
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was equipped to handle such an occurrence at the border, Esper said, telling Miller at the time that he didn’t even have the requested troops for the effort.
“And so I say something like, ‘well, look, DHS can handle whatever caravans are coming up. They’ve done so in the past. And he says, he repeats, ‘no, we need a quarter million troops.’ And I just turned squarely around to him, face him and say, ‘I don’t have a quarter million troops to send on some ridiculous mission to the border,” he said.
The plan was already in the works at the Pentagon when Esper talked with Milley, Esper said.
“I was just flabbergasted that not only was the idea proposed, but that people, people in my department were working on it,” Esper said.
However, the plan “died” after Esper directed Milley to tell the Pentagon’s Northern Command “to cease and desist.”
“It was dead. And it died, as it should,” Esper said.
Neither the Pentagon nor Miller responded to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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