Trump 2024 Bid 'Would Concern Me' on National Security Front: Robert Gates

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Sunday that he would be concerned about national security if Donald Trump runs for president again in 2024.

In an interview on Face the Nation, host Margaret Brennan referenced a bombshell new book by Mark Esper, who served as defense secretary under Trump, and asked Gates if he believes the former president could pose a risk to the nation's security.

"Mark Esper says that the former president is a risk to national security," she said. "Do you believe President Trump running for office again would present that threat to national security?"

"It would concern me," said Gates, who served as the director of Central Intelligence from 1991 to 1993 and as defense secretary under George W. Bush and Barack Obama. When Brennan said his response was "a very diplomatic phrase," Gates continued by stating "that's where I am."

Robert Gates
Robert Gates said Sunday that he would be concerned for national security if Donald Trump ran for office in 2024. Here, Gates is seen in Mt. Vernon, Washington, on December 15, 2014. David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

In Esper's book, A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Defense Secretary in Extraordinary Times, the former defense official paints a troubling portrait of Trump's time in office. Among other claims, Esper said Trump asked why the U.S. military couldn't "just shoot" George Floyd protesters in Washington, D.C.

"Can't you just shoot them? Just shoot them in the legs or something?" Trump allegedly said in June 2020. Esper described the moment as "surreal, sitting in front of the Resolute desk, inside the Oval Office, with this idea weighing heavily in the air, and the president red faced and complaining loudly about the protests under way in Washington, D.C."

Esper also said Trump was the "biggest leaker of all" in the administration, adding that it was "generally bad" for the safety of the country. He also recounted a time when the former president suggested launching missiles into Mexico to "destroy the drug labs," and several instances in which he berated fellow staffers as being "losers."

In all, he described Trump as being an "idiosyncratic, unpredictable, and unprincipled commander in chief," and said he was explicitly responsible for the deadly January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. capitol.

A number of Democrats and activists viewed Trump as a national security threat in the aftermath of the capitol attack, which resulted in the former president's second impeachment in the House of Representatives. Trump has repeatedly downplayed the event, and has continued to push the false narrative that the election was stolen from him due to massive voter fraud.

Soon after the attack, Gates said that the current Republican party lacks "values and principles" and noted that he has "serious concerns about the future" of politics.

"I've worked for eight presidents. Five of them were Republicans. I don't think any of them would recognize the Republican Party today," he said in May 2021. "I think in terms of the values and the principles that the Republican Party stood for under those five presidents are hard to find these days."

Newsweek contacted a representative for Trump for additional comment.