Top general feared Trump might launch nuclear war, new book says
BY DAVID MARTIN
SEPTEMBER 14, 2021 / 7:48 PM / CBS NEWS
Before President Trump left office, the nation's top military officer feared Mr. Trump might create a crisis that would allow him to declare a national emergency and stay in power, despite losing the election. That fear prompted General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to make secret calls to his counterpart in China, according to a forthcoming book.
Milley was so worried Mr. Trump might start a war with China that he placed a secret call to his Chinese counterpart assuring him the U.S. had no intention of striking, according to the book "Peril" by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
"If we're going to attack, I'm going to call you ahead of time," the authors quote Milley as saying. He made a second call to China after the storming of the U.S. Capitol, saying, "We are 100% steady. Everything's fine."
After the Capitol riot,
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Milley asking him what safeguards were in place to prevent Mr. Trump from starting a nuclear war. A transcript of the phone call obtained by Woodward and Costa quotes Pelosi as saying, "He's crazy."
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"I agree with you on everything," Milley replied, according to the book.
Milley told nuclear control officers they had to check with him first — no matter what orders they received from the president, the book says.
Another item that sparked Milley's concern was a letter from Mr. Trump — sent two days after he fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper — that directed Milley to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan in two months.
The book also quotes Mr. Trump as telling Mike Pence, his always loyal vice president, that if he didn't refuse to certify the 2020 election results, "I don't want to be your friend anymore." Mr. Trump later told Pence: "You've betrayed us. I made you. You were nothing."
"Peril", set to be released on September 21, is published by Simon & Schuster, a division of ViacomCBS.
David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.
First published on September 14, 2021 / 7:48 PM
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