CNN – Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper is suing the Defense Department for not allowing the publication of his book manuscript, after the agency told Esper he had to remove parts of the book on his working time under then-President Donald Trump.
Esper’s disputes with the agency arose during the pre-publication review of his manuscript, a typical process government officials must follow to receive approval when writing about their service, so that state secrets and other protected information are not made public. Beginning in October, a DoD staff member told Esper he needed to proceed with writing his book, according to his lawsuit filed on Sunday.
Esper said the requested redactions covered quotes from Trump and others, conversations he had with Trump and his views on foreign countries. Trump sacked Esper by tweet in early November 2020, days after losing the presidential election. Esper’s increasingly strained relationship with Trump led him to prepare a letter of resignation weeks before, in a bid to fashion a gracious exit in the widely anticipated event where the president decided to fire him, have several defense sources told CNN.
The New York Times first reported on Esper’s trial.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement: “We are aware of Mr. Esper’s concerns regarding the pre-publication of his briefs. As with all of these journals, the Department takes seriously its obligation to balance national security with an author’s narrative desire. As this matter is currently the subject of litigation, we will refrain from commenting further. “
In Sunday’s filing, Esper’s lawyers wrote that making the redactions “would be a grave injustice to important moments in history that the American people must know and understand.”
But after the Defense Department told him about the redactions, stories of the former secretary’s time working for Trump were later leaked to the press, he said, prompting Esper to believe the The leaks were meant to “undermine the impact” that the information in his book would have if it were first made public in his next book.
Esper added that he did not believe the deletions proposed by the DoD were classified information, according to his lawsuit. He said he contacted current Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin earlier this month and received no response.
Esper has now asked the DC District Court to allow the publication of unclassified information in the book.
A HarperCollins imprint set a May 2022 publication date for the book, titled “A Sacred Oath,” the lawsuit said.
This is the second time a senior Trump official has had a public confrontation with the agency he worked for over information he wanted to include in a book scheduled for publication. Esper’s dispute arose after the end of the Trump administration. A previous situation, where the Justice Department unsuccessfully sued former National Security Advisor John Bolton over a book he wrote that was heavily critical of Trump and failed to gain full approval to publish, s ‘took place while Trump was still president and, according to former officials, was challenged as a way to protect Trump politically. The Biden administration dropped the pursuit by the Bolton government in June.
“It was very unusual for someone as high as a cabinet official not to have additional opportunities to discuss concerns expressed by the government,” Esper’s attorney Mark Zaid said on Sunday, in a press release. “Secretary Esper is the top official who has filed a lawsuit to challenge the redactions. [Bolton], Secretary Esper embraces and advances the rule of law. “
Esper broke with Trump several times during his tenure as Secretary of Defense, including over the former president’s plans to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, but the rift has widened in the summer 2020 when he said he did not support the use of active-duty troops to quell the large-scale protests across the United States sparked by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police.
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