Our book, Divided We Stand, looks at the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection. Some Republican leaders -- and a measurable number of rank-and-file voters -- are open to violent rebellion, coups, and secession.
Joseph Dunford, the Marine general who preceded Milley as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, had also faced onerous and unusual challenges. But during the first two years of the Trump presidency, Dunford had been supported by officials such as Kelly, Mattis, Tillerson, and McMaster. These men attempted, with intermittent success, to keep the president’s most dangerous impulses in check. (According to the Associated Press, Kelly and Mattis made a pact with each other that one of them would remain in the country at all times, so the president would never be left unmonitored.) By the time Milley assumed the chairman’s role, all of those officials were gone—driven out or fired.
...In the weeks before the election, Milley was a dervish of activity. He spent much of his time talking with American allies and adversaries, all worried about the stability of the United States. In what would become his most discussed move, first reported by Woodward and Costa, he called Chinese General Li Zuocheng, his People’s Liberation Army counterpart, on October 30, after receiving intelligence that China believed Trump was going to order an attack. “General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay,” Milley said, according to Peril. “We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you. General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise … If there was a war or some kind of kinetic action between the United States and China, there’s going to be a buildup, just like there has been always in history.”
Milley later told the Senate Armed Services Committee that this call, and a second one two days after the January 6 insurrection, represented an attempt to “deconflict military actions, manage crisis, and prevent war between great powers that are armed with the world’s most deadliest weapons.”
Trump has responded with a not-so-veiled death threat.
Trump’s reaction to the @JeffreyGoldberg profile of Mark Millley - which shows new depths of Trump’s depravity and derangement - is to imply that Milley should get the death penalty.— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) September 23, 2023
Trump knows exactly what he’s doing here.https://t.co/F7V9j7DcET pic.twitter.com/wivuuZuZTr