Following the November 2020 elections, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Mark Milley compared then-President Donald Trump to Nazi German leader Adolf Hitler and feared Trump would attempt a coup to retain power, according to excerpts leaked from a forthcoming book this week. Trump rejected Milley’s claims on Thursday and firmly denied ever considering a coup, however.
CNN was the first to report on Milley’s alleged coup fears, which were described in an excerpt from the forthcoming book by Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, titled “I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year,” due to be published next Tuesday.
The book claims Milley became increasingly concerned after Trump initiated several high-profile personnel decisions in the days and weeks following the November election, including firing then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Milley reportedly shared his concerns with friends, lawmakers and colleagues and felt he had to be “on guard” for what might come.
“They may try, but they’re not going to fucking succeed,” Milley told his deputies, according to the authors. “You can’t do this without the military. You can’t do this without the CIA and the FBI. We’re the guys with the guns.”
Milley also reportedly began making parallels between Trump and Nazi German leader Adolf Hitler. He also referred to some of Trump’s supporters as “brownshirts.”
“This is a Reichstag moment,” Milley told aides, according to the book. “The gospel of the Führer.”
Trump responded to Milley’s leaked claims on Thursday, saying, “I never threatened, or spoke about, to anyone, a coup of our Government. So ridiculous! Sorry to inform you, but an Election is my form of ‘coup,’ and if I was going to do a coup, one of the last people I would want to do it with is General Mark Milley.”
Leonnig and Rucker wrote Milley’s concerns heightened in the days leading up to Jan. 6, as Trump called on supporters to rally in support of challenges he had raised to the legitimacy of certain 2020 election results.
“Milley told his staff that he believed Trump was stoking unrest, possibly in hopes of an excuse to invoke the Insurrection Act and call out the military,” Leonnig and Rucker wrote.
In his efforts to stop a potential coup, Milley reportedly discussed a plan with other officials to resign, one-by-one, rather than carry out orders from Trump that they considered to either be illegal or ill-advised.
In the days and weeks after the November election, Trump and his supporters raised questions about the election and some states ordered election recounts. On November 14, as initial recount efforts were still underway, thousands of Trump supporters traveled to Washington D.C. for the “Million MAGA March.” Ahead of that November political rally, Milley allegedly told aides it “could be the modern American equivalent of ‘brownshirts in the streets,'” referring to the pro-Nazi paramilitary group that Hitler’s rise to power.
Milley viewed Trump as “the classic authoritarian leader with nothing to lose,” the authors wrote.
Following the Jan. 6 incident in which demonstrators entered the U.S. Capitol, clashed with police and caused a delay of an election certification process, the military ordered a large-scale activation of National Guard troops in Washington D.C. to provide security for Joe Biden’s inauguration.
According to the book, during one training exercise in preparation for the inauguration, Milley told a group of senior military leaders, “Here’s the deal, guys: These guys are Nazis, they’re boogaloo boys, they’re Proud Boys. These are the same people we fought in World War II. We’re going to put a ring of steel around this city and the Nazis aren’t getting in.”
Milley did recently link the Jan. 6 Capitol breach with “white rage” during a televised Congressional hearing.
Milley’s alleged coup concerns came after he apologized last June for appearing in a photo with Trump in Lafayette Square, amid accusations Trump ordered riot police to clear the area for a deliberate photo opportunity.
A June inspector general report said investigations of the Lafayette Square-clearing incident “did not support a finding that the [U.S. Park Police] cleared the park to allow the President to survey the damage and walk to St. John’s Church. Instead, the evidence we reviewed showed that the USPP cleared the park to allow the contractor to safely install the antiscale fencing in response to destruction of property and injury to officers occurring on May 30 and 31.”