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Trump Builds Walls but Burns Bridges

AP Photo/Joe Maiorana

On Sunday, former Defense Secretary Mark Esper appeared on CBS’s “60 Minutes” with Norah O’Donnell, during which he made several allegations against his former boss, Donald Trump. According to Esper, Trump wanted to fire missiles into Mexico to target drug cartels and considered military invasions in Venezuela and Iran.

Are these allegations true? I have no idea. But I do know that once again, we’ve seen how Trump’s ability to turn allies into enemies is putting him on defense. Let’s not forget that Trump abruptly fired Esper a few days after the 2020 election. Trump had reportedly been unhappy with Esper, but it was a bad look in the wake of a disputed election.

“It’s important to our country, it’s important to the republic, the American people, that they understand what was going on in this very consequential period,” Esper told O’Donnell. “The last year of the Trump administration. And to tell the story about things we prevented. Really bad things. Dangerous things that could have taken the country in … in a dark direction.”

In response to the interview and the allegations from Esper, Trump provided a statement addressing each of the allegations made.

Again, Trump could be 100% correct, but it doesn’t matter. How many more people has Trump hired and fired who are just itching for their moment in the spotlight — and making a few bucks with a tell-all book?

This all comes back to my longstanding concern about how Trump has burned so many bridges, both during his time in the White House and since he left. He has proven himself to have a talent for turning loyal allies into enemies. I’m disappointed at how his successful partnerships have been sullied by his ego-driven attacks following disagreements.

Trump also fell out with his previous secretary of Defense, General “Mad Dog” Mattis. Together, they rejuvenated our military and delivered a series of foreign policy victories. But disagreement over Syria ultimately led to Trump trashing Mattis as an “overrated” general.

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Trump quickly soured on Jeff Sessions over his refusal to shut down the fake Russian collusion allegations investigation. And despite confirming a record number of conservative judges, Sen. Mitch McConnell has been routinely blasted by Trump since he left office. Unfortunately, Trump’s attacks mean that he and McConnell likely wouldn’t have a very productive relationship should he run in 2024 and win.

Bill Barr, Trump’s second attorney general, has also been critical of Trump since leaving office, mostly over their disagreements about the 2020 election. Barr has gone on the record stating that he doesn’t think Trump should run again in 2024, though he says he would vote for him if he does run and becomes the GOP nominee.

This is always going to be a problem for Trump going into 2024. Should he run, the voices of former officials from his administration will be used against him constantly. You can dismiss condemnation from the left as being partisan, but it’s a lot harder to explain away the attacks of people Trump picked for his own administration.