Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and senior military aide to the president, feared Trump would “go rogue” after the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill, and feared he could fueling military conflict to cling to power and derail the peaceful transfer of power, write Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in “Peril.”
Milley “was certain that Trump had entered a serious mental decline” after the election and had become “manic, yelling at officials and building his own alternate reality on endless election conspiracies,” they wrote in the new book, obtained by ABC News to come. of its release on September 21.
On January 8, two days after pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol, Milley called his Chinese counterpart, General Li Zuocheng, to assure him that the United States was “100% stable” and was not. not on the verge of collapse. or war despite the unrest in Washington, according to the book. He apparently would not have informed Trump of the call.
He made a similar appeal in October, according to the book, to allay Chinese fears that Trump was planning a covert attack ahead of the presidential election.
On the same day, Milley also called an unscheduled meeting at the Pentagon with military officials tasked with relaying orders for a military or nuclear strike. He said he “must be directly involved” in the process of launching a nuclear weapon, Woodward and Costa wrote.
“No matter what you are told, you do the procedure. You do the process. And I’m part of that procedure,” Milley told officers, looking them in the eye and asking them to affirm their understanding, according to the book.
“Some might argue that Milley had overstepped his authority and seized extraordinary power,” Woodward and Costa wrote. But his actions, he thought, were a good faith precaution to ensure that there was no historic break in the international order, no accidental war with China or others, and no use of nuclear weapons. “
Milley was not the only senior official in the Trump administration worried about Trump’s behavior and the potential national security implications. CIA Director Gina Haspel also feared Trump would attack Iran after refusing to rule out military action on its nuclear program in November, the authors wrote.
“It’s a very dangerous situation. Are we going to go after his ego? Haspel told Milley during a phone call, according to the book.
Haspel also reportedly told Milley the country was “on the path to a right-wing coup” after Trump refused to give in to Joe Biden in November.
“This is all madness. He acts like a six-year-old with a temper tantrum,” she said, according to the book.
Woodward and Costa said they conducted more than 200 interviews for their book on “Deep Backgrounds,” provided that first-hand participants and witnesses to the events described are not named as sources for the project.
They also wrote that they had obtained many contemporary notes and documents in their report, including a full transcript of Milley’s call with President Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., After the attack on the Capitol on January 6. , when she inquired about nuclear safeguards.
“What precautions are available to prevent an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike?” Pelosi asked Milley, who told him there were “a lot of controls in the system.”
Pelosi was skeptical, according to the book, pointing to the Capitol Riot and the White House’s lack of intervention.
“You know he’s crazy. He’s been crazy for a long time,” Pelosi said, according to the book.
“Madam President, I agree with you on everything,” Milley replied, the authors wrote.
Milley, through a spokesperson, declined to comment and a Pelosi spokesperson did not respond to an ABC News request for comment.
In an interview with conservative Newsmax television channel Tuesday night, Trump said he never considered attacking China and said Milley’s call with his Chinese counterpart was a “betrayal.” Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called on Biden to fire Milley, who is now his main military adviser.
“Peril,” a sequel to Woodward’s previous books on the Trump administration, “Fear” and “Rage,” include new details about efforts within the Trump White House and the administration to challenge the results of the 2020 elections.
Trump, who lashed out at Cabinet secretaries who recognized the new Biden administration, also pressured Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election results at an Oval Office meeting on the 5th. January.
“I’ve done all I could, and more, to find a way around this. It’s just not possible,” Pence told Trump of his ceremonial role presiding over the count. voice, according to the book.
“No no no!” Trump screamed back. “You don’t understand, Mike. You can do it. I don’t want to be your friend anymore if you don’t do this.
Pence confided in former Vice President and Indiana Senator Dan Quayle about his role and asked if he could do anything to do as Trump ordered, the authors said.
“You don’t know what position I am in,” Pence told Quayle.
“I know the position you find yourself in,” Quayle replied, according to the book. “I also know what the law is. You listen to the parliamentarian. That’s all you do. You have no power.”
In “Peril,” Woodward and Costa also explore Biden’s decision to run for president and the behind-the-scenes machinations of his campaign to win the Democratic nomination and take on Trump.
Luis Martinez and Will Steakin of ABC News contributed to this report.
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