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Stephen Colbert Interrogates Mark Esper: 'You're Trying to Sell Books Instead of Protect the Country'

"Given you knew all of this, why did you wait to put it in a book?"
  • Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper stopped by The Late Show With Stephen Colbert Monday night to promote his new memoir, but the interview was anything but a cakewalk. Colbert took the opportunity to grill Esper on the ethics of waiting to speak out against former President Donald Trump in his book, rather than doing so while in office.

    While Esper called himself a "circuit breaker" who tried to stop to Trump's most dangerous policies — he insisted he was fired for his lack of loyalty to the former president — Colbert pressed him on the timing of this admission. "Given you knew all of this, why did you wait to put it in a book?" asked the late night host. "Doesn’t that seem like you’re trying to sell books instead of protect the country?"

    "What does that say to you about the state of our country that it’s just this one man in this position pushing back against the crazy and that you can’t be truthful to the American people?" Colbert continued. "Because the founders imagined that an informed public would save our country, not one guy, however well-meaning."

    Esper began to answer the question, as Colbert continued, "But you did know all this stuff and felt you couldn’t tell us?"

    The former secretary of defense defended his decision not to speak out while in office, saying Trump would have fired him, and no one would have stopped the former president from doing things like firing missiles at Mexico or sending troops to the border. "But where are we as a country if you can’t tell us that?" fired back Colbert. "We deserve to know that to make our choice. And I take your rationale, but where are we as a country if you can’t tell us that?"

    Unable to offer a concrete answer, Esper gave up, telling Colbert that it's a "great question."

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    Deena ElGenaidi's writing has been featured in Nylon, MTV News, Insider, The AV Club, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @deenaelg.

    TOPICS: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, CBS, Donald Trump, Mark Esper, Stephen Colbert, politics