According to a new book by Woodward and Costa, shortly before the election, Trump, sensing his inevitable defeat, repeatedly made baseless claims about vote rigging and was in serious mental decline.
If we believe the revelations in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s new book, “Peril,” in his final weeks as president, Donald Trump came close to starting a war with China, which Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley prevented in a rather controversial way. Opinion in Washington is divided; some politicians and commentators praise his actions, while some call for his dismissal and even accuse him of treason.
According to the book, shortly before the election in November last year, Trump, sensing his inevitable defeat, repeatedly made baseless claims about election fraud, and was very unstable and prone to dangerous moves. Milley received information from Beijing that Chinese intelligence feared that the U.S. would attack China. The general became suspicious that the president might actually launch start a war in order to divert the nation’s attention away from other matters, mobilize his supporters and win the election.
On Oct. 30, Milley called his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng, chief of the Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission, to reassure him that Trump had no plans to attack China. Milley allegedly told him, “If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”
Would Trump Push the Nuclear Button?
On Jan. 8, two days after Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory, Milley convened a secret meeting in his office in Pentagon. He suggested to top commanders that if they receive an order to attack China, they should ignore it until he confirms that the order complies with the “correct procedure.” He also made another call to Beijing to reassure China that “the government is stable” and the U.S. is “not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations” against China.
According to Woodward and Costa — whose revelations are, as usual, based on partially anonymous sources — Milley even feared that Trump would launch a nuclear strike on China. The president of the U.S. can push the nuclear button alone; so can the secretary of defense under their authority. The Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman does not need to approve or even know about it. It is therefore unclear what “procedure” Milley referred to during the meeting in Pentagon. However, according to the authors, when each officer affirmed with the words “yes, sir” that they had understood the procedures, Milley “considered it an oath.”
‘We’re Going To Bury Biden on Jan. 6’
The book adds many details to media reports of the tense atmosphere in Washington between the November election and Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, when it was feared that Trump would attempt a coup to stay in power. Chris Miller, head of the Pentagon at the time, was loyal to Trump. During that period, Milley met, among others, with Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, who said that the president was “crazy,” and the general replied, “I agree with you on everything.”
From the book we also learn that Steve Bannon, Trump’s trusted aide, played a key role in plotting the coup. After the elections, Bannon spoke with Trump and planted an idea of a mob attack on the Capitol on the date the Congress would certify the election results. “We’re going to bury Biden on Jan. 6, f*cking bury him,” the infamous leader of the alt-right movement allegedly said.
Naturally, Trump denied the book’s revelations and called Woodward — the Watergate whistleblower — “filthy.”* The idea that he was intending to attack China is nonsense, he stated. During the aforementioned period of tension, when Trump tried to hinder the certification of the election results, there was speculation that if he chose to make the script of “Wag the Dog” a reality, he would attack Iran rather than China.
Trump Almost Started a War
Milley’s controversial actions are being compared to those of James Schlesinger, defense secretary during the Nixon administration. In 1974, when Nixon’s impeachment investigation was underway and it was predicted that he would be removed from office (he ultimately resigned), Schlesinger sent out secret circulars to his subordinates in the Pentagon, ordering them not to follow Nixon’s orders if he tried, for instance, to start a war. During the final days of his presidency, Nixon was regularly inebriated and acted like a man capable of reckless moves.
Milley’s clandestine moves received approval from some Democratic Party commentators and politicians. Some even call him a “hero” who tried to prevent a possible disaster. Others, however — mostly from the right — believe that he has grossly violated military law and must resign. Despite the change of administration, Milley retained his position because the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairmen are appointed every four years and usually perform their function, understood as apolitical, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office. Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz urged Biden to fire the general, and popular right-wing Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson said Milley had “committed treason” because he had colluded with the military commander of America’s enemy country.
Milley was even criticized by retired Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, Trump’s former White House adviser on Russia, who testified against Trump during impeachment hearings in Congress. Vindman tweeted that Milley’s actions “violated the sacrosanct principle of civilian control over the military” and are “an extremely dangerous precedent,” and urged him to resign.
Another retired army officer, former Supreme Allied Commander of Europe Gen. Wesley Clark, disagreed with Vindman, claiming that the colonel “does not understand” the rules in the army. Milley’s defenders argue that he acted for the sake of peace and America. However, some argue that Milley should not have acted on the sly, but instead should have issued a public warning that Trump might start a war.
*Editor’s Note: This quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.