According to CNN reporting, “Peril,” a new book by legendary journalist Bob Woodward and veteran Washington Post reporter Robert Costa, two days after the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, President Donald Trump’s top military adviser, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, took secret action to limit Trump from potentially ordering a dangerous military strike or launching nuclear weapons.
Milley, who was deeply shaken by the assault, ‘was certain that Trump had gone into a serious mental decline in the aftermath of the election, with Trump now all but manic, screaming at officials and constructing his own alternate reality about endless election conspiracies,’ according to Woodward and Costa.
The authors write that Milley was concerned that Trump would “go rogue.”
“You never know what a president’s trigger point is,” Milley told his senior staff, according to the book.
In response, Milley went above and beyond, convening a secret meeting in his Pentagon office on January 8 to review the process for military action, including the use of nuclear weapons. Milley told senior military officials in charge of the Pentagon’s war room, the National Military Command Center, not to take orders from anyone unless he was present.
“You follow the procedure regardless of what you are told. You are in charge of the procedure. And I’m a part of that process “According to the book, Milley told the officers. He then went around the room, looking each officer in the eyes and asking them to verbally confirm their understanding.
“Got it?” Milley asked, according to the book.
‘Milley considered it an oath,’ the authors write.
“Peril” is based on over 200 interviews with firsthand participants and witnesses, and it paints a bleak picture of Trump’s final days in office. The book, Woodward’s third on Trump’s presidency, recounts behind-the-scenes moments of a commander in chief who was unstable and explosive, yelling at senior advisers and aides as he desperately sought to retain power.
It also includes exclusive reporting on the events leading up to January 6 and Trump’s reaction to the insurgency, as well as newly revealed details about Trump’s January 5 Oval Office confrontation with his vice president, Mike Pence.
Documents, calendars, diaries, emails, meeting notes, transcripts, and other records were obtained by Woodward and Costa.
The book also delves into Joe Biden’s decision to run for office again, his first six months in office, why he pushed so hard to get out of Afghanistan, and how he truly feels about Trump. CNN obtained a copy of “Peril” ahead of its September 21 release date.
Milley’s apprehension stemmed from his own observations of Trump’s erratic behavior. The authors write that his concern was heightened by the events of January 6 and the ‘extraordinary risk’ the situation posed to US national security.
Milley had already had two back-channel phone calls with China’s top general, who was on high alert due to the unrest in the United States.
According to the book, Milley then received a scathing phone call from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Woodward and Costa obtained an exclusive transcript of the call, during which Milley attempted to reassure Pelosi that the nuclear weapons were secure.
“What I’m saying to you is that if they couldn’t even stop him from an assault on the Capitol, who even knows what else he may do? And is there anybody in charge at the White House who was doing anything but kissing his fat butt all over this?”
Pelosi continued, “You know he’s crazy. He’s been crazy for a long time.”
According to Woodward and Costa, Milley responded, “Madam Speaker, I agree with you on everything.”
Milley decided he needed to act after receiving the call. He directed his top service chiefs to keep an eye on everything “at all times.” He called the National Security Agency’s director, Paul Nakasone, and said, “Needles up… keep watching, scan.”
“Aggressively watch everything, 360,” he told then-CIA Director Gina Haspel.
The authors wrote, “Milley was overseeing the mobilization of America’s national security state without the knowledge of the American people or the rest of the world.”
According to Woodward and Costa, “some might argue that Milley had overstepped his authority and taken extraordinary power for himself,” but he saw his actions as a “a good faith precaution to ensure there was no historic rupture in the international order, no accidental war with China or others, and no use of nuclear weapons.”
Milley’s concern that Trump might do something unexpected stemmed from personal experience. Milley discovered right after Trump lost the election that the President had signed a military order to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by January 15, 2021, before leaving the White House.
The memo was secretly written by two Trump supporters. According to the book, no one on the national security team was aware of it. The memo was eventually revoked, but Milley couldn’t get away from the fact that Trump had done a U-turn on his top military advisers.
According to Woodward and Costa, Milley “felt no absolute certainty that the military could control or trust Trump after January 6, and believed it was his job as the senior military officer to think the unthinkable and take any and all necessary precautions.”
Milley described it as the “absolute darkest moment of theoretical possibility,” according to the authors.
According to Woodward and Costa, top national security officials were concerned that Trump would “Wag the Dog,” inciting a conflict at home or abroad to distract from his crushing election loss.
Haspel warned Milley that if Trump refused to concede in November 2020, “We are on the way to a right-wing coup. The whole thing is insanity. He is acting out like a six-year-old with a tantrum.” Haspel was also concerned that Trump would launch an attack on Iran.
“This is a highly dangerous situation. We are going to lash out for his ego?” she asked Milley, according to the book.
Even some of Trump’s most ardent supporters privately expressed concern following the election. Milley was told by then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Trump was “in a very dark place right now.”
Milley had only one goal in mind: to ensure a peaceful transfer of power on January 20. As he explained to Pompeo, “We’ve got a plane with four engines and three of them are out. We’ve got no landing gear. But we’re going to land this plane and we’re going to land it safely.”