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Top military officials feared Trump was planning a coup and discussed resigning en masse to avoid carrying out illegal orders, book says

  • A new book details Trump’s attempt to cling to power after the 2020 election.
  • At one point, top military officials thought Trump was planning a coup, the book said.
  • They reportedly discussed resigning en-masse if given illegal orders.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley and other top military officials feared that President Donald Trump was planning a coup after his defeat in the 2020 election, and discussed resigning if they were given illegal or dangerous orders, according to a new book.

The book — “I Alone Can Fix It” by the Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker — details Trump’s attempt to cling to power after last year’s election. CNN published extracts from the book on Wednesday.

According to the extracts, Milley discussed the possibility of a coup with lawmakers, friends and top officials.

“They may try, but they’re not going to f—ing succeed,” Milley told his deputies, according to the authors. “You can’t do this without the military. You can’t do this without the CIA and the FBI. We’re the guys with the guns.”

Milley and other officials, who were not named, discussed resigning one by one rather than carry out illegal orders, the book said.

“It was a kind of Saturday Night Massacre in reverse,” Leonnig and Rucker wrote, per CNN, a reference to the mass White House resignations under President Richard Nixon as the Watergate scandal unfolded in 1973.

It was not clear when Milley’s discussion with the officials took place, but according to the book, a focus of their concern was Trump’s decision to replace top officials at the Departments of Defense and Justice, including then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper, with hardline loyalists.

Trump announced on November 9 that Esper had been “terminated,” and in an interview days before, Esper warned that if he were to be replaced, it would be with “a real yes-man. And then God help us.”

According to the book, Milley grew increasingly concerned by Trump’s behavior ahead of January 6, believing that he was deliberately seeking to stir unrest with his bogus election-fraud claims to invoke the Insurrection Act and summon the military. 

“What they are trying to do here is overturn the government,” one unnamed friend told Milley, according to the authors. “This is all real, man. You are one of the few guys who are standing between us and some really bad stuff.”

According to the book, Milley was so concerned that he even likened Trump’s behavior to Adolf Hitler’s after the Nazi dictator used the 1933 Reichstag fire to declare a national emergency and seize authoritarian powers.

Insider has contacted Trump’s office for comment on the book.

Milley was criticized last summer when he accompanied Trump for a controversial photo op in Lafayette Square after it was forcibly cleared of anti-racism protesters. Milley wore his combat fatigues as he walked alongside the president, and later apologized for violating rules banning military officials taking part in political events. 

But in recent weeks, Milley was targeted by the former president and his allies after he defended before Congress the US military’s policy of teaching members about racism in the US.

At the congressional hearing, he declared his own commitment to understanding “white rage” and the motives of the far-right Capitol insurrectionists. 

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