Esper Memoir of Trump Tenure to Move Ahead After Legal Battle Ends

A memoir by the former defense secretary, Mark T. Esper, about his tenure in the Trump administration will be published with “minimal redactions” after he sued the agency he once led because it wanted to block information in the manuscript, his lawyer said on Friday.

The announcement brought an end to a battle between Mr. Esper and the Defense Department over what material was considered classified and therefore could not be included in his book, titled “A Sacred Oath,” which is set to be published in May.

Mr. Esper, who was fired by former President Donald J. Trump shortly after he lost re-election in the 2020 race, sued the Department of Defense in November, accusing agency officials of improperly blocking parts of his book “under the guise of classification.”

Mr. Esper’s lawyer, Mark S. Zaid, said in a statement on Friday that they had dropped the lawsuit after the Pentagon reversed its decisions about an “overwhelming majority” of the portions of the book that it had earlier said were classified.

Mr. Zaid said Mr. Esper thought that the remaining redactions to the book were also improper but that they were not central to the book.

“Frankly, Secretary Esper has no interest in publishing properly classified information, which he has sworn to and protected for decades,” Mr. Zaid said in the statement.

The Defense Department did respond directly to a request for comment about the end of the lawsuit.

“There are no changes to the Department’s prepublication security and policy review,” it said on Saturday. “The purpose of Department of Defense prepublication security and policy review is to ensure information damaging to the national security is not inadvertently disclosed.”

In the department’s prepublication review of Mr. Esper’s manuscript, it redacted more than 50 pages of the book “that absolutely gutted substantive content and important story lines,” Mr. Zaid said. This included accounts of some of Mr. Esper’s interactions with Mr. Trump and his views on actions taken by other countries, according to the lawsuit.

The prepublication review system is meant to stop current and former employees of the executive branch from sharing information that is classified and could damage national security if released, but Mr. Esper was not the first Trump administration official to encounter trouble during the process.

In 2020, a career official who oversaw the prepublication review of a book by John R. Bolton, a national security adviser in the Trump administration, accused White House aides of improperly politicizing the manuscript review.

Mr. Zaid said that review process was broken because of the time and money required to challenge the decisions in court and because ultimately the department reversed its position “on an overwhelming majority of classification decisions it earlier asserted were so vital to the national security interests of the United States, when the fact is they never were.”

Mr. Esper submitted a draft of the manuscript for the review process in late May, and came to believe the process was taking an unusually long time, according to the lawsuit. The Defense Office of Prepublication and Security Review returned the manuscript in October without a written explanation for the deletions, the lawsuit said.

Mr. Esper said that some of the redactions “asked me to not quote former President Trump and others in meetings, to not describe conversations between the former president and me, and to not use certain verbs or nouns when describing historical events.”

“I was also asked to delete my views on the actions of other countries, on conversations I held with foreign officials, and regarding international events that have been widely reported,” Mr. Esper continued. “Many items were already in the public domain; some were even published by D.O.D.”

Source: NYT > U.S. > Politics

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