(WASHINGTON) — Former President Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents is being denounced by some of the top brass in his administration.
Former Attorney General Bill Barr and former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, during appearances on the Sunday shows, painted Trump’s behavior as careless and unbefitting a political leader.
“This is not a circumstance where he’s the victim or this is government overreach,” Barr told CBS’ Face the Nation host Robert Costa.
“He provoked this whole problem himself,” Barr continued. “Yes, he’s been the victim of unfair witch hunts in the past, but that doesn’t obviate the fact that he’s also a fundamentally flawed person who engages in reckless conduct that leads to situations, calamitous situations, like this, which are very disruptive and hurt any political cause he’s associated with.”
Barr, when asked if he’d put the country “at risk” if reelected, said he will “always put his own interests and gratifying his own ego ahead of everything else, including the country’s interests.”
“There’s no question about it,” the former attorney general said. “This is a perfect example of that.”
Trump faces 37 felony counts as he’s accused of willfully retaining documents containing sensitive defense information regarding the nation’s nuclear programs and more, then tried to obstruct investigators trying to retrieve them.
He pleaded not guilty in a Miami courtroom on June 13. Trump has denied all wrongdoing, claiming the investigation is a political prosecution and relentlessly attacking special counsel Jack Smith.
Many Republicans have argued Trump’s been unfairly treated by a “weaponized” Department of Justice, but others have criticized his conduct as problematic.
On CNN’s State of the Union, Esper called the indictment’s revelations “disturbing” and outlined the security risks that unfold when classified information is mishandled. He also compared Trump’s case to that of Jack Teixeira, a young member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard accused of leaking sensitive documents online.
Asked if Trump should be trusted with the nation’s top secrets if elected president again in 2024, Esper said not if what the special counsel’s investigation has alleged is true.
“Based on his actions, again, if proven true under the indictment by the special counsel, no,” Esper told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“I mean, it’s just irresponsible action that places our service members at risk, places our nation’s security at risk,” Esper said. “You cannot have these documents floating around. They need to be secured.”
Barr served for roughly two years as attorney general before stepping down after the 2020 election following disputes with Trump over his unfounded allegations of voter fraud. Esper served for little more than a year before Trump announced he fired him in the fall of 2020.
Both men have turned critical of the former president, each penning books about their experiences working for him. Trump has taken to criticizing both men on his Truth Social platform, though he hasn’t responded directly to their latest statements.
Former President Mike Pence, who is challenging Trump for the Republican nomination, has recently toughened his stance against his one-time boss over the federal indictment.
Pence said last week he “cannot defend” what’s alleged in the 49-page indictment.
“The very prospect that what is alleged here took place — creating an opportunity where highly sensitive classified material could have fallen into the wrong hands, even inadvertently — that jeopardizes our national security [and] puts at risk the men and women of our Armed Forces,” Pence said.
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