Trump asked aide why his generals couldn’t be like Hitler’s, book says

WASHINGTON — President Donald J. Trump has told his top White House aide that he wants generals like those who reported to Adolf Hitler, saying they were “totally loyal” to the leader of the Nazi regime, according to a forthcoming book on the 45th president.

“Why can’t you be like the German generals? Mr. Trump told John Kelly, his chief of staff, preceding the question with an obscenity, according to an excerpt from “The Divider: Trump in the White House,” by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser, published online by The New Yorker Monday morning. (Mr. Baker is the chief White House correspondent for The New York Times; Ms. Glasser is an editor for The New Yorker.)

The excerpt portrays Mr. Trump as deeply frustrated with his senior military officials, whom he considered insufficiently loyal or obedient to him. In the conversation with Mr. Kelly, which took place years before the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, the authors write, the chief of staff told Mr. Trump that the German generals had “tried to kill Hitler three times and almost pulled him out.

Mr Trump was dismissive, according to the excerpt, apparently ignorant of World War II history that Mr Kelly, a retired four-star general, knew only too well.

“‘No, no, no, they were totally loyal to him,’ replied the president,” according to the authors of the book. “In his version of the story, the generals of the Third Reich had been completely subjugated to Hitler; it was the model he wanted for his army. Kelly told Trump there were no such American generals, but the president was determined to test the proposal.

Much of the clip focuses on General Mark A. Milley, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s top military official, under Mr Trump. When the president offered him the job, General Milley said, “I’ll do anything you ask me to do.” But he quickly soured on the president.

The general’s frustration with the president peaked on June 1, 2020, when Black Lives Matter protesters filled Lafayette Square, near the White House. Mr. Trump demanded to send in the army to eliminate the protesters, but General Milley and other top officials refused. In response, Mr. Trump shouted: “You are all losers! according to the extract. Turning to Milley, Trump said, ‘You can’t just shoot them? Just shoot them in the legs or something? “, write the authors.

After the National Guard and police cleared the square, Gen. Milley briefly joined the president and other aides in crossing the empty park so Mr. Trump could be photographed outside a church on the other side. The authors said General Milley later saw his decision to join the President as an “error in judgment that would haunt him forever, a ‘road to Damascus moment,’ as he would later put it.”

A week after that episode, General Milley wrote – but never delivered – a scathing resignation letter, accusing the president he served of politicizing the military, “ruining the international order”, failing to valuing diversity and embracing the tyranny, dictatorship and extremism that the military had sworn to fight against.

“I am convinced that you have done tremendous and irreparable harm to my country,” the general wrote in the letter, which has not been previously disclosed and was published in full by The New Yorker. General Milley wrote that Mr Trump failed to honor those who fought fascism and the Nazis during World War II.

“It is now apparent to me that you do not understand this world order,” Gen. Milley wrote. “You don’t understand what the war was. In fact, you subscribe to many of the principles that we fought against. And I can’t be part of that.

Yet General Milley ultimately decided to stay in office to ensure the military could serve as a bulwark against an increasingly out-of-control president, according to the book’s authors.

“‘I’m just going to fight it,'” General Milley told his staff, according to an excerpt from The New Yorker. “The challenge, he said, was to prevent Trump from doing more damage, while acting in a manner consistent with his obligation to carry out orders from his commander-in-chief. “If they want to court-martial me or put me in jail, go ahead.”

In addition to the revelations about General Milley, the excerpt from the book reveals new details about Mr. Trump’s interactions with his senior military and national security officials and documents the drastic efforts of the top aides in the former president to prevent a national or international crisis in the weeks that followed. he lost his bid for re-election.

In the summer of 2017, the book excerpt reveals, Mr Trump returned from the July 14 parade in Paris and told Mr Kelly he wanted one of his own. But the president told Mr. Kelly: “Listen, I don’t want any injuries in the parade. This doesn’t sound good to me,” the authors write.

“Kelly couldn’t believe what he was hearing,” the snippet continues. “’These are the heroes,’ he told Trump. “In our society, there is only one group of people who are more heroic than them – and they are buried in Arlington.” Mr Trump replied: “I don’t want them. It doesn’t suit me,” according to the authors.

The excerpt highlights how many of the president’s senior aides tried to restore their reputations after the Capitol attack. Like General Milley, who has largely refrained from publicly criticizing Mr. Trump, they are now eager to clarify their disagreements with him by cooperating with book authors and journalists.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who never publicly challenged Mr. Trump’s wild election claims and has rarely criticized him since, privately dismissed claims of fraud that Mr. Trump and his advisers embraced.

On the evening of November 9, 2020, after the media called the race for Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mr. Pompeo called General Milley and asked to see him, according to the excerpt. During a conversation at the general’s kitchen table, Mr. Pompeo was candid about how he felt about the people around the president.

“‘The lunatics have taken over,'” Mr. Pompeo told General Milley, according to the authors. Behind the scenes, they write, Mr. Pompeo had quickly accepted that the election was over and refused to promote its cancellation.

“’He was totally against it,’ recalls a senior State Department official. Pompeo cynically justified this stark contrast between what he said in public and in private. “It was important for him not to get fired at the end too, to be there until the end,” the senior official said, according to the excerpt.

The authors detail what they call an “extraordinary arrangement” in the weeks following the election between Mr Pompeo and General Milley to hold daily morning phone calls with Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff , in an effort to ensure that the President did not take dangerous action.

“Pompeo and Milley soon began calling them the ‘land the plane’ phone calls,” the authors write. “Our job is to land this aircraft safely and effect a peaceful power transfer on January 20,” Milley told his team. “It is our obligation to this nation.” There was a problem, however. “Both engines are off, the landing gear is stuck. We are in an emergency situation.

The Jan. 6 hearings on Capitol Hill this summer revealed that a number of the former president’s top aides privately pushed back against his campaign denials, though some declined to do so publicly. Several, including Pat A. Cipollone, the former White House attorney, testified that they tried — unsuccessfully — to persuade the president that there was no evidence of substantial fraud.

In the excerpt, the authors say General Milley concluded that Mr Cipollone was “a force to ‘try to keep guardrails around the President'”. “, write the authors. But they add that General Milley was “never sure what to think of Meadows. Was the Chief of Staff trying to land the plane or hijack it? »

General Milley is not the only senior official to have considered resigning in response to the president’s actions, the authors write.

The excerpt from the book details private conversations within the president’s national security team as they discussed what to do in case he tried to take action they felt they could not meet. The authors report that General Milley consulted Robert Gates, former Secretary of Defense and former Director of the CIA.

Mr. Gates’ advice was blunt, the authors write: “‘Keep the chiefs on board with you and make it clear to the White House that if you go, they all go, so the White House knows this is not isn’t just about firing Mark Milley. This is all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who resigned in response.

The excerpt makes it clear that Mr. Trump didn’t always get the yes-yes he wanted. During an Oval Office exchange, Mr. Trump asked General Paul J. Selva, an Air Force officer and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, what he thought of the desire of the President to hold a military parade in the nation’s capital on the fourth of July.

General Selva’s previously unreported response was blunt – and not what the president wanted to hear, according to the book’s authors.

“’I didn’t grow up in the United States, I actually grew up in Portugal,’ General Selva said. “’Portugal was a dictatorship – and the parades were about showing people who had arms. And in this country, we don’t do that. He added: “That’s not who we are.”

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