Trump screamed at Milley over military crackdown on protests: book

Former President Trump got into a shouting match with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley after Trump tried to force the nation’s top general to respond to last summer’s racial justice protests, according to a new book reported on by Axios on Monday.

The scene, which reportedly took place in the Situation Room, unfolded after Trump said that he’d just put Milley “in charge” of a military campaign to crack down on the nationwide protests, The Wall Street Journal’s Michael Bender wrote in his new book, “Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost.” A copy of the book was obtained by Axios.

Trump wanted to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 and deploy active duty troops to Washington, D.C., amid protests following the murder of George Floyd last May.

But Milley reportedly pushed back, arguing that there were legal constraints on the military interfering in domestic matters.  

“I said you’re in f—ing charge!” Trump reportedly yelled at Milley, who shouted back, “Well, I’m not in charge!”

According to the book, the response infuriated Trump, who told Milley, “You can’t f—ing talk to me like that!”

“Goddamnit,” Milley said to others in the room, which included former Attorney General William Barr and former Defense Secretary Mark Esper. “There’s a room full of lawyers here. Will someone inform him of my legal responsibilities?”

Barr then interjected, telling Trump that “the general is right,” Bender recounted.

Through an aide, Trump told Axios the account “is totally fake news, it never ever happened. I’m not a fan of Gen. Milley, but I never had an argument with him and the whole thing is false. He never talked back to me. … If Gen. Milley had yelled at me, I would have fired him.”

Bender told Axios that the exchange was confirmed by multiple senior administration officials and that he asked Trump for his side but the former president did not respond.

Previously reported excerpts from Bender’s book also claimed Trump told Milley and top law enforcement officials to shoot and “beat the f— out” of protesters.

Trump, who reportedly would point to news footage that showed law enforcement getting physical with protesters in Seattle and Portland, told administration officials, “That’s how you’re supposed to handle these people. Crack their skulls!” 

Trump also told officials that he wanted the military to “beat the f— out” of the civil rights protesters, Bender writes. 

“Just shoot them,” Trump said on several occasions inside the Oval Office, according to Bender.

The excerpts highlight the complicated relationship between Trump and Milley, who sought to temper the president’s urges to use the military in response to last year’s protests as well as distance himself from the politically charged issue.

In June 2020, Milley was photographed in combat fatigues walking with Trump to St. John’s Church outside the White House, shortly after demonstrators protesting the police killing of Floyd were forcibly cleared from Lafayette Square by federal law enforcement and National Guardsmen. 

Milley apologized days later, saying he regretted his participation and that he “should not have been there.”

“My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics,” he said at the time.

Aides to Trump also reportedly went so far as to draft an order that would have allowed him to invoke the Insurrection Act last summer, but Barr, Esper and Milley later talked the president out of the plan. 

In the past week, Milley has been attacked by conservatives for saying during a House Armed Services Committee hearing that he wished to explore the area of academia that looks into the intersection of race and law. 

“I want to understand white rage, and I’m white,” Milley said. 

The comments drew condemnation from Trump directly.

“You see these generals lately on television? They are woke,” Trump said at an Ohio rally on Saturday night, without naming Milley. 

Updated at 1:29 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump George Floyd Insurrection Act Mark Esper Mark Milley Military Protests William Barr
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