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Trump Asked Aide Why His Generals Couldn’t Be Like Hitler’s, Book Says


WASHINGTON — Former President Donald J. Trump told his top White House aide that he wished he had generals just like the ones who had reported to Adolf Hitler, saying they were “totally loyal” to the leader of the Nazi regime, in accordance with a forthcoming book concerning the forty fifth president.

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

The excerpt depicts Mr. Trump as deeply frustrated by his top military officials, whom he saw as insufficiently loyal or obedient to him. Within the conversation with Mr. Kelly, which took place years before the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the authors write, the chief of staff told Mr. Trump that Germany’s generals had “tried to kill Hitler thrice and almost pulled it off.”

Mr. Trump was dismissive, in accordance with the excerpt, apparently unaware of the World War II history that Mr. Kelly, a retired four-star general, knew all too well.

“‘No, no, no, they were totally loyal to him,’ the president replied,” in accordance with the book’s authors. “In his version of history, the generals of the Third Reich had been completely subservient to Hitler; this was the model he wanted for his military. Kelly told Trump that there have been no such American generals, however the president was determined to check the proposition.”

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

General Milley’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 within the military to clear the protesters, but General Milley and other top aides refused. In response, Mr. Trump shouted, “You might be all losers!” in accordance with the excerpt. “Turning to Milley, Trump said, ‘Can’t you only shoot them? Just shoot them within the legs or something?’” the authors write.

After the square was cleared by the National Guard and police, General Milley briefly joined the president and other aides in walking through the empty park so Mr. Trump may very well be photographed in front of a church on the opposite side. The authors said General Milley later considered his decision to affix the president to be a “misjudgment that may haunt him perpetually, a ‘road-to-Damascus moment,’ as he would later put it.”

Per week after that incident, 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 value diversity, and embracing the tyranny, dictatorship and extremism that members of the military had sworn to fight against.

“It’s my belief that you just were doing great and irreparable harm to my country,” the overall wrote within the letter, which has not been revealed before and was published in its entirety by The Latest Yorker. General Milley wrote that Mr. Trump didn’t honor those that had fought against fascism and the Nazis during World War II.

The previous president stays a potent force in Republican politics.

“It’s now obvious to me that you just don’t understand that world order,” General Milley wrote. “You don’t understand what the war was all about. Actually, you subscribe to most of the principles that we fought against. And I can’t be a celebration to that.”

Yet General Milley eventually decided to stay in office so he could make sure that the military could function a bulwark against an increasingly out-of-control president, in accordance with the authors of the book.

“‘I’ll just fight him,’” General Milley told his staff, in accordance with the Latest Yorker excerpt. “The challenge, as he saw it, was to stop Trump from doing any more damage, while also acting in a way that was consistent together with his obligation to perform the orders of his commander in chief. ‘In the event that they need to court-martial me, or put me in prison, have at it.’”

Along with the revelations about General Milley, the book excerpt reveals latest details about Mr. Trump’s interactions together with his top military and national security officials, and documents dramatic efforts by the previous president’s most senior aides to forestall a domestic or international crisis within the weeks after Mr. Trump lost his re-election bid.

In the summertime of 2017, the book excerpt reveals, Mr. Trump returned from viewing the Bastille Day parade in Paris and told Mr. Kelly that he wanted certainly one of his own. However the president told Mr. Kelly: “Look, I don’t want any wounded guys within the parade. This doesn’t look good for me,” the authors write.

“Kelly couldn’t imagine what he was hearing,” the excerpt continues. “‘Those are the heroes,’ he told Trump. ‘In our society, there’s just one group of people who find themselves more heroic than they’re — and so they are buried over in Arlington.’” Mr. Trump answered: “I don’t want them. It doesn’t look good for me,” in accordance with the authors.

The excerpt underscores how most of the president’s senior aides have been attempting to burnish their reputations within the wake of the Jan. 6 attack. Like General Milley, who largely shunned criticizing Mr. Trump publicly, they are actually desperate to make their disagreements with him clear by cooperating with book authors and other journalists.

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

On the evening of Nov. 9, 2020, after the news media called the race for Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mr. Pompeo called General Milley and asked to see him, in accordance with the excerpt. During a conversation at General Milley’s kitchen table, Mr. Pompeo was blunt about what he considered the people across the president.

“‘The crazies have taken over,’” Mr. Pompeo told General Milley, in accordance with the authors. Behind the scenes, they write, Mr. Pompeo had quickly accepted that the election was over and refused to advertise overturning it.

“‘He was totally against it,’ a senior State Department official recalled. Pompeo cynically justified this jarring contrast between what he said in public and in private. ‘It was vital for him to not get fired at the tip, too, to be there to the bitter end,’ the senior official said,” in accordance with the excerpt.

The authors detail what they call an “extraordinary arrangement” within the weeks after the election between Mr. Pompeo and General Milley to carry each day morning phone calls with Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, in an effort to be sure the president didn’t take dangerous actions.

“Pompeo and Milley soon took to calling them the ‘land the plane’ phone calls,” the authors write. “‘Our job is to land this plane safely and to do a peaceful transfer of power the twentieth of January,’ Milley told his staff. ‘That is our obligation to this nation.’ There was an issue, nevertheless. ‘Each engines are out, the landing gear are stuck. We’re in an emergency situation.’”

The Jan. 6 hearings on Capitol Hill have revealed that plenty of the previous president’s top aides pushed back privately against Mr. Trump’s election denials, at the same time as some declined to accomplish that publicly. Several, including Pat A. Cipollone, the previous White House counsel, testified that that they had attempted — without success — to persuade the president that there was no evidence of considerable fraud.

Within the excerpt, the authors say that General Milley concluded that Mr. Cipollone was “a force for ‘attempting to keep guardrails across the president.’” The final also believed that Mr. Pompeo was “genuinely trying to attain a peaceful handover of power,” the authors write. But they write that General Milley was “never sure what to make of Meadows. Was the chief of staff attempting to land the plane or to hijack it?”

Gen. Milley isn’t the one top official who considered resignation, the authors write, in response to the president’s actions.

The excerpt details private conversations among the many president’s national security team as they discussed what to do within the event the president attempted to take actions they felt they may not abide. The authors report that General Milley consulted with Robert Gates, a former secretary of defense and former head of the C.I.A.

The recommendation from Mr. Gates was blunt, the authors write: “‘Keep the chiefs on board with you and make it clear to the White House that when you go, all of them go, in order that the White House knows this isn’t nearly firing Mark Milley. That is about the complete Joint Chiefs of Staff quitting in response.’”

The excerpt makes clear that Mr. Trump didn’t at all times get the yes-men that he wanted. During one Oval Office exchange, Mr. Trump asked Gen. Paul Selva, an Air Force officer and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, what he thought concerning the president’s desire for a military parade through the nation’s capital on the Fourth of July.

General Selva’s response, which has not been reported before, was blunt, and never what the president desired to hear, in accordance with the book’s authors.

“‘I didn’t grow up in the USA, I actually grew up in Portugal,’ General Selva said. “‘Portugal was a dictatorship — and parades were about showing the individuals who had the guns. And on this country, we don’t try this.’ He added, ‘It’s not who we’re.’”

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