Fragments of a new book by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa appeared in the American media, revealing the backstage of the last weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency. According to the authors, General Mark Milley, the highest-ranking military commander of the American army, was to instruct the army representatives during a secret meeting so that without his knowledge they would not obey orders to use force and nuclear weapons issued by the then president. The general was to be concerned about the mental state of the head of state. Trump accuses Milley of high treason, while President Joe Biden assures that he has “full confidence” in the general.
According to CNN, which gained access to excerpts from the book “Peril” ahead of the September 21 premiere, Woodward and Costa describe a secret meeting at the Pentagon, two days after the Capitol attack in which Milley was to recommend military not to obey orders for hostilities without his consent.
“Regardless of what they tell you, follow the procedure (…) and I am part of this procedure,” the general said, expecting clear confirmation from each of them.
Woodward and Costa write that Milley may have overstepped his powers, but felt he was acting in good faith to “ensure that there would be no historic breach in the international order, accidental war with China and other nations, and the use of nuclear weapons.”
Concerns about the president’s mental state
According to journalists, Milley was seriously concerned about Trump’s mental state in the final days of his presidency and feared that he would try to stay in power.
According to the Washington Post, Milley was also scheduled to hold two unofficial talks with his Chinese counterpart, General Li Zuocheng, in an attempt to allay Beijing’s fears of a possible US attack just before the 2020 elections and after the storming of the Capitol. “If we attack, I’ll call you ahead of schedule. It won’t be a surprise,” he was told to Chinese General Milley.
Reports by Woodward and Costa indicate that they were not the only ones who feared Trump’s actions. When the former president refused to acknowledge the election results, then-CIA director Gina Haspel was convinced that the US was “on the way to a right-wing coup.” “This is all madness. He acts like a six-year-old with a tantrum,” the authors of the book quote Haspel. The head of the National Security Agency (NSA), Paul Nakasone, was also said to be extremely vigilant.
Pressure on Mike Pence
Woodward and Costa also describe a conversation between Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on January 5, the day before the attack on the Capitol. The then president allegedly pressured Pence to refuse to accept the results of the elections approved by the Senate. Pence was to reply that “one person should not have such authority.”
“But wouldn’t it be almost cool to have that kind of power?” – was to hear the vice president. According to the book, Trump threatened to “no longer be his friend” to Pence.
The authors also write that former Trump adviser Steve Bannon was to play one of the main roles in the events before January 6. An activist, who was fired by Trump from his post as “White House chief strategist” in 2017, was to persuade the president to return to Washington from his estate while his supporters were demonstrating. “On January 6, we will bury Biden, f … we will bury him” – journalists cite Bannon’s words.
Accusations of treason
Donald Trump himself referred to excerpts from the upcoming book by journalists published on Tuesday.
“If the story of the ‘moronic’ general Mark Milley … is true, I assume he will be put on trial for CHEATING,” the former US president wrote in a statement on Tuesday. “It would mean that he was contacting his Chinese counterpart behind the president’s back and telling China he would warn them ‘about the attack’. You can’t do that!” – added.
Milley has been accused of treason, along with Trump, by many other Republican politicians and conservative publicists. If that’s true, it wasn’t an act of patriotic heroism. It was an act of treason that posed a risk to our security and constitutional order, said Senator Marco Rubio. The politician called on President Biden to fire the general who was nominated to the post of chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by Trump. “If this is true, General Milley is a traitor to our country and should be tried immediately for high treason,” said Fox News’ leading columnist Sean Hannity. However, according to Fox News reporter Jennifer Griffin, the book’s revelations are not entirely supported by the facts. According to her information based on Pentagon sources, Milley’s conversations with General Li were official contacts attended by 15 other officials and notes were taken of her. Shortly after the events of January 6, the military was also to hold similar talks with military personnel from NATO countries, reassuring them that the situation in the US was stable and that America did not intend to engage in any hostilities.
The White House also issued a statement on the matter. It was assured that President Joe Biden had “full confidence” in General Mark Milley.
Behind the scenes of the Trump presidency
Peril is the third book by Bob Woodward – one of the authors who discovered the Watergate scandal – on the Trump presidency. The book also describes the first six months of Biden’s presidency.
The revelations contained in the fragments cited by the media largely coincide with what other authors of books about the dramatic events of the declining period of Trump’s term of office have written about. About the concerns of Milley and other officials about a possible coup d’état, among others, Washington Post journalists Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig; and Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender. However, they did not mention Milley’s actions to prevent Trump from starting a war.
Main photo source: Ron Sachs / PAP / EPA