Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley took a series of extraordinary actions after the Jan. 6th Capitol riot because he was concerned an ‘unstable’ President Trump might undertake military action in a desperate bid to stay in office, according to Bob Woodward’s bombshell new book.
The efforts included Milley as the top ranking military officer meeting with top military officials in the Pentagon two days after the MAGA riot and telling them to keep him in the process for all military actions, including the use of nuclear weapons. It also involved outreach to Milley’s counterpart in the Chinese military to provide reassurances the US would not strike its rival, according to the book.
‘If you get calls, no matter who they’re from, there’s a process here, there’s a procedure. No matter what you are told, you do the procedure. You do the process. And I’m part of that procedure,’ he told top US military officials inside the Pentagon’s war room two days after the riot,’ according to Peril, by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
‘You never know what a president’s trigger point is,’ Milley told them, according to the book, which relies on Woodward’s well-established methods of relying on ‘deep background’ information provided sources, some of them anonymously, as well as documents and interviews, to attempt to reconstruct events and conversations.
He feared Trump was suffering ‘serious mental decline,’ Woodward and coauthor Bob Costa reported.
Milley told them, according to the book: ‘The strict procedures are explicitly designed to avoid inadvertent mistakes or accident or nefarious, unintentional, illegal, immoral, unethical launching of the world’s most dangerous weapons.’
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Mark Milley phoned his Chinese counterpart to give reassurances two days after the Capitol riot and cautioned US military leaders amid fears Trump might attack to keep power.
‘Got it?’ Milley asked his team members. ‘Yes, sir,’ they replied, in an exchange Milley considered ‘an oath.’
Milley told CIA Director Gina Haspel: ‘Aggressively watch everything, 360.’ The authors write that Milley was concerned Trump might go ‘rogue.’
Advance excerpts of the book were published by CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Just as stunning were Milley’s reported actions that same date to the head of China’s powerful military, to reassure his counterpart that the US was not going to attack China and set off a clash with a major nuclear power. His message, despite his own doubts about Trump’s mental state, was that ‘everything’s fine.’
‘Things may look unsteady,’ Milley told Gen. Li Zuocheng. ‘But that’s the nature of democracy, General Li. We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.’
US intelligence concluded the government of Chinese President Xi Jinping was concerned about a potential US attack after the Jan. 6 riot
Milley was concerned Trump might take military action in a desperate move to retain power
Former CIA Director Gina Haspel
Milley called China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Li Zuocheng to provide reassurances
Milley was concerned Trump might go rogue, having run out of legal options to stay in office. Trump had called the election ‘rigged’ and spoke at a rally before supporters ransacked the Capitol
It was Milley’s second call to his counterpart in the final months of the Trump administration. US intelligence concluded the Chinese believed Trump might launch a military strike in order create a basis to stay in power, after an election Trump claimed was fraudulent, despite a series of court and procedural defeats that had him running out of options.
Milley had earlier called Li in October amid ongoing tensions over the South China Straight, and Trump’s rhetoric targeting China.
Milley feared Trump might seek to use such an attack to achieve a Reichstag fire type incident, where he would cite the dangerous new situation to cling to power. Milley afterward concluded Li was ‘unusually rattled.’
According to the book, Milley even promised his counterpart there would be no surprises. They had reportedly established relations through a backchannel.
‘General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise,’ Milley reportedly told him.
That revelation infuriated Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
He wrote President Biden demanding he dismiss Milley ‘immediately.’
‘I write with grave concern regarding recent reporting that General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, worked to actively undermine the sitting Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces and contemplated a treasonous leak of classified information to the Chinese Communist Party in advance of a potential armed conflict with the People’s Republic of China (PRC),’ Rubio wrote.
‘These actions by General Milley demonstrate a clear lack of sound judgement, and I urge you to dismiss him immediately.’
Rubio added: ‘General Milley has attempted to rationalize his reckless behavior by arguing that what he perceived as the military’s judgement as more stable than its civilian commander. It is a dangerous precedent that could be asserted at any point in the future by General Milley or others. It threatens to tear apart our nation’s longstanding principle of civilian control of the military.’
The book quotes Milley expressing concerns Trump might launch a strike that could lead to war. Trump campaigned repeatedly ending Middle East wars he called a waste, and negotiated a departure date with the Taliban in Afghanistan before leaving office.
‘I continually reminded him, depending on where and what you strike, you could find yourself at war,’ the book quotes Milley as saying of Trump.
A president can only initiate a nuclear strike through a complex procedure that involves multiple layers of officials, coordinated through the National Military Command Center.
Milley reminded officers of the process involved in authorizing military strikes
The military did not want an incident to set off a war with the major nuclear power
Milley also spoke to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had publicly raised her own fears about Trump’s access to nuclear weapons immediately after the riot, which came on a day Congress met to count the electoral votes to make Joe Biden president.
‘This is bad, but who knows what he might do?’ Pelosi said. ‘He’s crazy. You know he’s crazy. He’s been crazy for a long time. So don’t say you don’t know what his state of mind is.’
The authors cite a transcript of the call.
Milley responded, according to the book: ‘ Madam Speaker. I agree with you on everything.’
Pelosi told him: ‘What I’m saying to you is that if they couldn’t even stop him from an assault on the Capitol, who even knows what else he may do? And is there anybody in charge at the White House who was doing anything but kissing his fat butt all over this?’
‘You know he’s crazy. He’s been crazy for a long time,’ she told him.
Milley’s efforts to give himself the opportunity to potentially head off a strike or a war appears to have been triggered by his call with Pelosi. According to the transcript, she asked him ‘what precautions are available to prevent an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or from accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike?’
Milley then vouched for ‘a lot of checks in the system.’
Haspel had raised her own concerns after Trump refused to accept the results of the November election. ‘We are on the way to a right-wing coup. The whole thing is insanity. He is acting out like a six-year-old with a tantrum,’ she told him.
‘This is a highly dangerous situation. We are going to lash out for his ego?’ she told Milley in a call.
The maneuvering came at a time after Milley had first accompanied Trump during his infamous photo-op shortly before authorities cleared protesters from Lafayette Square during Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020. He then apologized for having participated in the event in uniform.