Book on Trump Describes General's Efforts to Reassure China

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In a motion of his concerns, the nation’s highest-ranking subject serviceman besides gathered commanders to punctual them of the safeguards successful the atomic motorboat procedures.

Gen. Mark A. Milley, the president  of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had go  progressively  acrophobic   astir  erstwhile  President Donald J. Trump’s fixation connected  his predetermination  nonaccomplishment   and however  helium  mightiness  wield his powerfulness  to effort   to overturn the results.
Credit...Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

Michael S. Schmidt

Sept. 14, 2021Updated 12:40 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — The president of the Joint Chiefs of Staff doubly called his Chinese counterpart successful the last months of the Trump medication to reassure him that Donald J. Trump had nary plans to onslaught China successful an effort to stay successful powerfulness and that the United States was not collapsing, according to “Peril,” a caller publication by the Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

“Things whitethorn look unsteady,” the chairman, Gen. Mark A. Milley, told Gen. Li Zuocheng of China connected Jan. 8, 2 days aft Mr. Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol to effort to halt the certification of his predetermination nonaccomplishment and successful the 2nd of 2 specified calls. “But that’s the quality of democracy, General Li. We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But ideology tin beryllium sloppy sometimes.”

Yet contempt his assurances, General Milley was truthful acrophobic astir Mr. Trump that aboriginal that time helium convened a gathering with apical commanders to punctual them that the procedures for launching a atomic limb called for his engagement successful specified a decision.

The publication besides reveals however Vice President Mike Pence struggled much than was publically known implicit however to navigate Mr. Trump’s demands that helium upend the predetermination certification. Speaking privately to erstwhile Vice President Dan Quayle, who oversaw the certification of the 1992 predetermination successful which helium was connected the losing ticket, Mr. Pence appeared unfastened to going on with Mr. Trump’s plan, pushed the mendacious assertion that Arizona’s voting results were incorrect and asked whether determination was immoderate mode helium could hold certification.

“Peril,” which is scheduled to beryllium released adjacent Tuesday, says its accounts are based connected contemporaneous notes, documents and interviews with unnamed firsthand participants and witnesses. The New York Times obtained a transcript of it.

Similar to different media reports and books released since Mr. Trump near office, the publication details however Mr. Trump’s presidency fundamentally collapsed successful his last months successful office, peculiarly aft his predetermination nonaccomplishment and the commencement of his run to contradict the results. Top aides — including General Milley, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Attorney General William P. Barr — became convinced that they needed to instrumentality drastic measures to halt him from trampling connected American ideology oregon mounting disconnected an planetary conflict, and General Milley thought that Mr. Trump had declined mentally successful the aftermath of the election, according to the book.

A small little than fractional of the publication besides covers the archetypal respective months of Joseph R. Biden’s administration, arsenic the caller president grappled with the pandemic, a faltering economy, Congress and the military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“If the ngo is to sphere the Ghani government, I would not nonstop my ain son,” Mr. Biden is quoted arsenic telling aides successful his archetypal fewer months successful bureau during the discussions astir the withdrawal, referring to President Ashraf Ghani, who astatine the clip was trying to repel the Taliban from taking implicit the country.

But it is the book’s details astir the Trump medication that are apt to garner the astir attention.

In the days starring up to the 2020 election, the publication reveals, American quality showed that the Chinese believed that Mr. Trump planned to motorboat a subject onslaught to make an planetary situation that helium could assertion to lick arsenic a last-ditch effort to bushed Joseph R. Biden Jr.

General Milley, who had go progressively acrophobic astir China’s increasing subject powerfulness and the imaginable for 1 misread determination to acceptable disconnected combat betwixt the satellite superpowers, archetypal called General Li astir that clip connected a concealed backchannel. He wanted to guarantee General Li and President Xi Jinping that the United States was not readying to onslaught China.

On the Jan. 8 call, General Li suggested that Chinese leaders feared that the United States authorities was unstable. He pressed General Milley implicit the people of an hr and a fractional astir whether the subject was going to instrumentality action.

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Credit...Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Despite General Milley’s reassurances, helium feared that Mr. Trump mightiness beryllium trying to find a infinitesimal that helium could prehend connected to stay successful power, akin to Hitler’s exploitation successful 1933 of an arson occurrence astatine the German Reichstag to assistance institute exigency powers, the publication said.

But adjacent aft the call, General Milley concluded that the concern was “grave” and General Li “remained unusually rattled,” the publication reports.

Mr. Trump, General Milley had concluded, did not privation a warfare but mightiness bid the motorboat of immoderate benignant of subject onslaught that would acceptable disconnected a concatenation absorption and pb to war.

“I continually reminded him,” General Milley is quoted arsenic saying, “depending connected wherever and what you strike, you could find yourself astatine war.”

Later that day, General Milley spoke to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was increasing expanding acrophobic Mr. Trump would lash retired and usage subject force.

“This is bad, but who knows what helium mightiness do?” Ms. Pelosi said. “He’s crazy. You cognize he’s crazy. He’s been brainsick for a agelong time. So don’t accidental you don’t cognize what his authorities of caput is.”

“Madam Speaker,” General Milley said, “I hold with you connected everything.”

General Milley, who arsenic the president’s apical subject advisor is not successful the concatenation of command, tried to reassure Ms. Pelosi that helium could halt Mr. Trump.

“The 1 happening I tin warrant is that arsenic the president of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I privation you to cognize that — I privation you to cognize this successful you bosom of hearts, I tin warrant you 110 percent that the military, usage of subject power, whether it’s atomic oregon a onslaught successful a overseas state of immoderate kind, we’re not going to bash thing amerciable oregon crazy,” helium said.

“Well,” Ms. Pelosi said, “what bash you mean, amerciable oregon crazy?”

“I tin springiness you my word,” General Milley said. “The champion I tin bash is springiness you my connection and I’m going to forestall thing similar that successful the United States military.”

After speaking to Ms. Pelosi, General Milley convened a gathering successful a warfare country astatine the Pentagon with the military’s apical commanders, telling them that helium wanted to spell implicit the longstanding procedures for launching a atomic weapon. The wide reminded the commanders that lone the president could bid specified a onslaught and that General Milley needed to beryllium straight involved.

“If you get calls,” General Milley said, “no substance who they’re from, there’s a process here, there’s a procedure. No substance what you’re told, you bash the procedure. You bash the process. And I’m portion of that procedure. You’ve got to marque definite that the close radical are connected the net.”

The wide added: “The strict procedures are explicitly designed to debar inadvertent mistakes oregon mishap oregon nefarious, unintentional, illegal, immoral, unethical launching of the world’s astir unsafe weapons.”

Then, helium went astir the country and asked each serviceman to corroborate that they understood what helium was saying.

Twelve days later, General Milley said, helium thought helium mightiness beryllium 1 of the happiest radical astatine Mr. Biden’s inauguration due to the fact that Mr. Trump had yet near office.

“We cognize what you went through,” Mr. Biden told General Milley soon earlier the inauguration. “We cognize what you did.”

While overmuch had been reported astir General Milley’s views of Mr. Trump, the book’s depiction of Mr. Pence revealed for the archetypal clip the depths that the vice president went to arsenic his fealty to Mr. Trump collided with calculations astir his governmental aboriginal and the counsel of his aides and advisers to travel the Constitution.

In the days starring up to Jan. 6, Mr. Pence called Mr. Quayle, the lone surviving Republican vice president forced to certify an predetermination successful which helium was connected the losing ticket.

Mr. Pence told him that the president was convinced that Mr. Pence could propulsion retired the predetermination results successful bid to support himself successful power.

“Mike, you person nary flexibility connected this,” Mr. Quayle told Mr. Pence. “None. Zero. Forget it. Put it away.”

“I know, that’s what I’ve been trying to archer Trump,” Mr. Pence said. “But helium truly thinks helium can. And determination are different guys successful determination saying I’ve got this power.”

Mr. Pence past echoed Mr. Trump’s mendacious claims of predetermination fraud. “Well, there’s immoderate worldly retired successful Arizona,” Mr. Pence said.

“Mike, I unrecorded successful Arizona,” Mr. Quayle said. “There’s thing retired here.”

Matthew Cullen contributed research.

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