After then-President Donald Trump used him and other senior officials to stage a contentious Bible photo op at a church in Washington, DC, amid last summer’s George Floyd protests, Gen. Mark Milley was outraged and said he was “f**king done with this sh*t,” according to a new book.
On June 1, 2020, Milley, then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper, then-Attorney General William Barr, and others were summoned to the White House and told to “line up” immediately after Trump gave a Rose Garden address threatening to send US troops to quash anti-racism riots around the country.
Reporters and cameras crowded the Trump-led throng as it marched through Lafayette Square, while police used tear gas and pepper balls on nonviolent demonstrators to evacuate the area. Later, outside St. John’s Episcopal Church, Trump was photographed holding a bible.
According to the new book, “Peril” by The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa,, Esper felt “sick” when he discovered he was taking part in the photo op.
Esper turned to Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as they walked to the chapel, and was described as saying, “We’ve been duped. We’re being used.”
Milley agreed and turned to the chief of staff and said, “This is f**ked up and this is a political event and I’m out of here. We’re getting the fuck out of here. I’m fucking done with this sh*t.”
Milley then walked away from the group.
According to the book, the former general was embarrassed to have been dragged into a clearly political gathering and felt like he was “he was looking into a personal abyss,” the book said.
He addressed a note to the joint chiefs of staff and key Pentagon officials the next day, reminding them of their responsibilities to the country and the Constitution.
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“Please remind all of our troops and leaders that we will uphold the values of our nation, and operate consistent with national laws and our own high standards of conduct at all times,” he said in the memo, a copy of which was published in “Peril.” Milley also included a handwritten note at the end, saying, “We all committed our lives to the idea that is America — we will stay true to that oath and the American people.”
According to Woodward and Costa, Milley was so troubled by the photo op that he pondered retiring. According to reports, the general asked former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who also served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, if he should resign.
“F**k no!” Powell responded, according to the book. “I told you never to take the job. You never should have taken the job. Trump’s a fucking maniac.”
Several former top military officials, including Powell, have criticized the picture session. “We have a Constitution. And we have to follow that Constitution. And the President has drifted away from it,” Powell said.
Milley “stayed in his role”, but in a keynote speech at National Defense University’s 2020 graduation ceremony on June 11, he publicly apologized for participating in the photo session, calling it a “mistake.”