Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper sued the Pentagon on Sunday, claiming the agency had wrongfully blocked portions of his upcoming memoir, which details what he calls “the tumultuous second half of the Trump administration.”
Esper filed a lawsuit with the Federal District Court in Washington, DC, alleging that the Department of Defense “arbitrarily edited” portions of the memoir during a routine pre-release screening process for executive officials. The New York Times first released details of the lawsuit, noting that Esper is likely the highest-ranking former government official to sue for a preliminary restriction related to the book.
“The American people deserve a full and unadorned account of our country’s history, especially the more difficult times,” Esper said in a statement made by his lawyer, Mark Zayed. “I am more than disappointed that the current administration is violating my constitutional rights under the First Amendment. And I note with regret that going to court is the only way available to me to tell my whole story to the American people. “
Esper asked the court to allow him to publish in the book what, in his opinion, is unclassified information.
A memoir entitled “The Sacred Oath” is due out in May. The lawsuit notes that Esper submitted his manuscript in May 2021 for review and worked closely with the Pentagon’s verification department. The lawsuit says he ultimately believed the process was taking an “unusual” amount of time for the former defense secretary before he was eventually given the details and edited paragraphs from about 60 pages of the book.
“An important text is improperly withheld from publication in the manuscript of Esper’s secretary under the guise of classification,” the lawsuit says. “The hidden text is critical to telling the important stories discussed in the manuscript.”
Esper went on to say that he was asked to remove quotes from Trump and others at meetings, as well as “views on other countries’ actions, on conversations I have had with foreign officials, and on international events that were widely reported.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told the Times that he is aware of Esper’s frustration, but said the agency is serious about its role in protecting the country’s interests.
“As with all reviews like this, the department is serious about its commitment to balancing national security with the wishes of the author,” Kirby told the newspaper. “Considering that this issue is currently under litigation, we will refrain from further commenting.”
Esper is the latest Trump administration official to seek to chronicle his experiences in the former president’s office. Former national security adviser John Bolton has also drawn the Justice Department’s attention to his attempt to release details of his work for the president. Bolton’s book was published, despite this, the government sued for the profit. The Justice Department, led by Attorney General Merrick Garland, dropped the case in June.
Trump fired Esper last November, shortly after he lost his re-election battle to Joe Biden and amid reports that he violated the then president’s orders on several occasions.