"You cannot have these documents floating around," former Defense Secretary Mark Esper said. | Virginia Mayo/AP Photo

Painting him as a security risk, former Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday added his voice to those critical of former President Donald Trump for his handling of classified information after his presidency.

Esper, who served in Trump’s Cabinet, said: “People have described him as a hoarder when it comes to these type of documents. But clearly, it was unauthorized, illegal and dangerous.”

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Esper compared Trump’s legal case — he was recently indicted on 37 charges related to his post-presidency handling of secret documents — to that of Jack Teixeira, a Massachusetts Air National Guard member accused of posting secret and sensitive military documents on social media. Teixeira was indicted Thursday.

“We have a case playing out right now in Massachusetts where that young airman from the Massachusetts National Guard is being charged on similar types of accounts under the Espionage Act for taking and retaining unauthorized documents that affected our national defense,” Esper told host Jake Tapper.

Esper outlined scenarios in which the mishandling of classified documents could cause trouble for the United States.

“Imagine if a foreign agent, another country were to discover documents that outline America’s vulnerabilities or the weaknesses of the United States military,” he said. “Think about how that could be exploited, how that could be used against us in a conflict, how an enemy could develop countermeasures, things like that. Or in the case of the most significant piece that was raised in the allegation about U.S. plans to attack Iran, think about how that affects our readiness, our ability to prosecute an attack.”

Tapper asked Esper if he thought that Trump, if elected president in 2024, could ever be trusted with the nation’s secrets again.

“Based on his actions, again, if proven true under the indictment by the special counsel, no,” Esper said.

“I mean, it’s just irresponsible action that places our service members at risk, places our nation’s security at risk. You cannot have these documents floating around.”

Trump picked Esper to serve as Defense secretary in June 2019 and fired him in November 2020. “Mark Esper has been terminated,” he tweeted then.

Esper was critical of Trump in his book, “A Sacred Oath,” which was released in May. Among other things, Esper described his shock and dismay over a plan to send as many as 250,000 American troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. He also said Trump asked about launching missile strikes on Mexican drug labs.

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