Mark Esper, who served as Secretary of Defense under President Donald Trump, has raised concerns regarding the former president’s handling of classified documents.
Esper’s remarks come in response to allegations that Trump unlawfully retained classified materials and obstructed a federal investigation to retain them.
There are claims that the documents in question contained sensitive national security intelligence, the mishandling of which could have endangered the lives of military personnel and national security.
During an interview on CNN, Esper expressed his concerns, stating:
“The revelations are deeply troubling and disturbing. If the allegations are true, and if the documents contained information about our nation’s security, vulnerabilities, and other important matters, it could have significant harmful effects on our nation.”
Esper emphasized the importance of accountability and the adherence to the law, even for the president.
“No one is exempt from the law, and therefore, this process must proceed and individuals held accountable, including the president,” he said.
According to a 49-page indictment, the FBI seized 102 documents from various locations at Mar-a-Lago, including offices, bedrooms, a ballroom, a bathroom, and a storage room. Of these documents, 54 were classified as secret, and 17 were classified as top secret. The classified materials contained crucial information about U.S. nuclear capabilities, potential vulnerabilities, and contingency plans for retaliation.
When asked about Trump’s trustworthiness concerning national security, Esper responded, “Based on his actions, if proven true under the indictment by the special counsel, then no.”
He highlighted the seriousness of the situation, stating:
“These actions are highly irresponsible and put our servicemen and women at risk, as well as our national security. Such documents should not be floating around; they need to be securely handled. We understand the importance of that.”
Esper added, “Only authorized individuals should have access to these documents or the information within them. We must take this matter very seriously. It’s a grave concern.”
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Former President Trump faces 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information and other related charges. During his arraignment in Miami, he pleaded not guilty to these charges.
While the Pentagon has generally refrained from commenting on the former president’s case, including General Mark Milley, Esper’s statements highlight the growing concerns among former Trump administration officials.
Esper drew parallels between Trump’s actions and a recent case involving a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard who faced charges for posting unauthorized documents on social media under the Espionage Act.
Some suggest that Esper’s remarks reflect a broader sentiment within the GOP, with former Attorney General William Barr predicting potential consequences for Trump if the allegations in the indictment are substantiated.
Congressman Mike Turner, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, also expressed deep concerns regarding the security implications of unauthorized possession of classified documents.