(Trends Wide) — Former President Donald Trump shows all the signs of running for a new presidency that would shake America’s democracy to the core. But a highly charged audience in Congress on Tuesday will underscore the institutional and political spoils still burning in the wake of his first term in the White House.
General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is scheduled to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee along with other senior Pentagon officials to testify on the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. This issue is of vital importance in its own right, not least because of the death of 13 US service personnel in Kabul in a suicide attack and the deaths of Afghan civilians, including seven children, in a failed US drone attack on last month. Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and General Frank McKenzie, head of Central Command, are expected to face questioning about the much-criticized planning and execution of the end of America’s longest war.
But Milley’s testimony may also expose you to questions about his last weeks and months in Trump’s service, highlighting how he has become one of the most politicized high-ranking military leaders in recent memory. He is one of several normally apolitical figures drawn into the partisan fray, in large part due to the extreme pressures placed on the fabric of the United States government – and the barriers that normally exist between politics and the military – by the former commander. in chief.
Milley is testifying on Capitol Hill for the first time since it was published in several impressive new books that he took several steps motivated by an apparent belief that Trump was determined to launch a coup after his electoral defeat and that the temper The former president’s volcano represented a serious risk to national security. Meanwhile, Milley’s apparent willingness to cooperate with narratives exposing the final tense days of Trump’s presidency has opened him to criticism that he is playing his own political games. Milley was already a controversial figure after being forced to apologize for accompanying Trump to a notorious political photo shoot in Washington in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020 after the area was violently cleared of protesters.
At Tuesday’s hearing, and in a second session before the House Armed Services Committee the following day, Milley will come face to face with some of his most ardent Republican critics, some of whom will have every incentive to confront him because of to Trump’s dislike of the general, whom he called “stupid” at an incendiary rally in Georgia on Saturday night.
Republicans accused Milley of the biggest military transgression
Milley addresses the audience facing charges from Republicans that he acted behind Trump’s back to assure China that the then-president would not launch an attack on the growing Asian superpower and of subverting civilian control of the military by warping the chain of command. In their new book, “Peligro” (“Peril”), reporters from The Washington Post Bob Woodward and Robert Costa report that Milley feared that Trump’s mental condition had seriously deteriorated in his final days in office and that he called a meeting of senior commanders to tell them not to take orders for military action, even with nuclear weapons, without talk to him.
“You never know what triggers a president,” Milley told his staff, according to the book, which also reported on his contacts with top Chinese military officials.
Republicans, especially Senator Marco Rubio, took advantage of the reports to accuse Milley of effectively fracturing civilian control of the military by deciding that the military’s judgment was more stable than that of the commander-in-chief. The Florida senator demanded that Biden fire Milley and accused him of contemplating a “treacherous leak” into the Chinese Communist Party.
According to “Peril,” Milley made two calls across the Pacific after worrying that Beijing feared that Trump’s volatile mood after losing the Oval Office could lead him to lash out militarily.
On a trip to Europe earlier this month, Milley said the contacts were nothing out of the ordinary, but promised to speak about his post-election conduct at the hearing if asked.
“These are routine calls to discuss issues of the day, to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case, in order to ensure strategic stability,” Milley told several journalists who were traveling with him on a military plane, reported the Wall Street Journal.
“I will go into whatever level of detail Congress wants to go into,” he said.
During the storm in Washington over the book, Biden said he had “great confidence” in Milley. But that is unlikely to save the general an awkward moment in front of his main critics, some of whom are on Tuesday’s panel.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, for example, said Milley, Biden, Austin, Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and others should resign or be challenged over the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Another member of the Republican commission in favor of Trump, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, who was among the legislators who challenged the certification of Biden’s electoral victory, accused Milley of breaking the chain of command.
Fears of a coup
Milley’s appearance before the hearing also comes amid a series of new revelations about the tumultuous events that led to the insurrection of the United States Capitol by a mob incited by the former president on January 6. In one, Trends Wide published a memo from a pro-Trump attorney detailing the steps then-Vice President Mike Pence could have taken to block the certification of Biden’s election victory, which was first revealed in “Danger.”
In an earlier book, which also appears to have benefited from the cooperation of Milley or those around him, “I Alone Can Fix It” by reporters from Washington Post Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, it was revealed that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had had his own hunch about a possible coup.
He is quoted as telling his aides that Trump was the “classical authoritarian leader with nothing to lose” and that the United States could be facing a “Reichstag” moment, referring to the fire in the German Parliament used as a ruse by Adolf’s Nazi party. Hitler to cement power in the 1930s.
These are staggering reports, which Milley has yet to fully address in public since they appeared. And, again, there must be questions about whether the senior uniformed military officer has been too carried away by the political tumult.
But at the same time, and as was also the case in the notorious Lafayette Park moment, no chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the modern era has faced the kinds of dire circumstances that Milley does, a factor that historians are likely to consider when evaluating his role. .
The idea that a defeated commander-in-chief could plan a coup, seemingly validated by later revelations, would have been unthinkable before Trump. And no modern president has broken the conventions of political and military procedure like Trump.
In that sense, Milley’s testimony could also serve as a warning about what could happen if Trump, currently the seeming front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination, were to recapture the White House. Milley is one of the few high-level figures, including Republican officials in some battlefield states, who stood firm against Trump’s multi-front efforts to subvert the will of voters and hold onto power.
It is far from clear that Milley did subvert the civilian chain of command: Contacts with Chinese military officials are routine and, in the case, there was no politically motivated order of military action by Trump. But the fact that America’s most powerful uniformed officer thought it might be necessary to intervene to prevent a disaster poses a terrifying scenario. And it can invite debate on the current system, according to which a president has simplified the power to order a nuclear attack in minutes, a process in which the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is not directly involved.
It also seems unlikely that Trump, if he were to win a second term, would risk appointing senior military officials who he was not convinced were fully loyal to his cause.