Joint Chiefs Chair Dodges Questions on Trump, Coup Concerns and Nazis

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Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley answers questions from the media.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley speaks at a news briefing at the Pentagon, Wednesday, July 21, 2021, in Washington. (Kevin Wolf/AP Photo)

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley on Wednesday refused to address a book alleging he was concerned that former President Donald Trump might instigate a coup to stay in office and implicitly comparing Trump to Hitler.

The newly released book "I Alone Can Fix It" by Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker contains multiple anecdotes of Milley using language referring to Nazi Germany when discussing Trump's efforts to stay in office and dispute the 2020 election.

In a press briefing at the Pentagon, Milley repeatedly declined to confirm or deny the alleged comments. 

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"I've always, personally, provided the best military and professional advice I could to President Trump previously, to President Biden, or any other," he said. "I, and the other members of the Joint Chiefs, all of us in uniform, we take an oath. An oath to a document, an oath to the Constitution of the United States. And not one time did we violate that."

Milley said the Joint Chiefs maintained, and continue to maintain, the tradition of civilian control of the military and an apolitical military "without fail."

The book quotes Milley as saying Trump's false statements that the election was stolen were "a Reichstag moment" and "the gospel of the Fuhrer" and compared his supporters to Nazi-era Brownshirts. 

The book also reported that a friend warned Milley that Trump and his allies planned to "overturn the government." It quotes Milley as saying, "They may try, but they're not going to f---ing succeed. You can't do this without the military. You can't do this without the CIA and FBI. We're the guys with guns."

Criticism of Milley increased among some conservatives after the book's accounts emerged. Retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who served as former Vice President Mike Pence's national security adviser, said Tuesday on a show on the conservative website Newsmax that, if the comments are accurate as reported, Milley had "crossed the line" of respecting civilian control of the military and should resign.

After Milley's initial comments Wednesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed his full confidence in Milley and said he "doesn't have a political bone in his body."

When a reporter pointed out Milley had not denied any of the reported statements and asked whether he had been too political in the past, Milley again reiterated the military's apolitical nature and support of the Constitution, not to any individuals.

"The military did not, and will not, and should not ever get involved in domestic politics," he said. "We don't arbitrate elections. That's the job of the Judiciary, and the Legislature, and the American people. It is not the job of the U.S. military. We stay out of politics."

Milley came under intense criticism last summer for walking with Trump through Lafayette Square to the nearby St. John's Church, after protesters were violently cleared from the square. He soon expressed regret for the appearance, and his apology caused him to fall out of favor with Trump.

Other reports of Milley's conflicts have emerged in recent months. Another book, "Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost," alleged that Milley and Trump's disagreement over whether and how the military should respond to racial justice protests once turned into a profanity-filled shouting match in the White House.

-- Stephen Losey can be reached at stephen.losey@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StephenLosey.

Related: Trump, Milley Had Profanity-Laden Blowup Over Protest Response, New Book Reports

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