Trump reportedly pressed to send uninvited U.S. troops into Mexico, commando-style, to fight drug cartels

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Donald Trump, Mark Esper, Mark Milley.
Donald Trump, Mark Esper, Mark Milley. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Near the end of 2019 and into spring 2020, former President Donald Trump and his top aides seriously considered deploying large numbers of active-duty U.S. troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, or even across the border into Mexico, The New York Times reports.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper stepped in to quash a plan by Trump's immigration czar Stephen Miller "to send as many as 250,000 troops — more than half the active U.S. Army, and a sixth of all American forces — to the southern border in what would have been the largest use of the military inside the United States since the Civil War," the Times reports. And Trump himself "pressed his top aides to send forces into Mexico itself to hunt drug cartels, much like American commandos have tracked and killed terrorists in Afghanistan or Pakistan."

Trump was persuaded multiple times not to send U.S. troops into Mexico only after top national security aides reminded him it would look, to Mexico and the rest of the world, like the U.S. was invading one of its closest allies and largest trading partner, the Times reports. And it would have been: "the United States and Mexico have historically worked together to fight the cartels, usually through joint police and FBI operations at the invitation of the Mexican government."

Trump publicly raised the idea himself. After a Mexican drug cartel murdered nine members of a U.S. Mormon family in November 2019, he tweeted: "This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the Earth." Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador tweeted back: "We appreciate and thank very much President Trump and any foreign government that wants to help, but in these cases we have to act with independence."

The Pentagon officials were already "frightened by what they saw as the president's pattern of misusing the military," and "Trump's obsession with the southern border was already well known by that time," the Times reports. "He had demanded a wall with flesh-piercing spikes, repeatedly mused about a moat filled with alligators, and asked about shooting migrants in the leg as they crossed the border. His aides considered a heat-ray." Read more about the proposals and why they died at The New York Times.

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