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Trump once complained that his generals weren't like Hitler's, book says

The exchange with then-White House chief of staff John Kelly was detailed in an excerpt from a forthcoming book by journalists Susan Glasser and Peter Baker.
White House chief of staff John Kelly listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Oct. 5, 2017.
White House chief of staff John Kelly listens as President Donald Trump speaks at a briefing with senior military leaders at the White House on Oct. 5, 2017.Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Former President Donald Trump once complained to his White House chief of staff that his generals weren't "totally loyal" like Adolf Hitler’s during World War II, according to a book excerpt published Monday.

“You f---ing generals, why can’t you be like the German generals?” Trump asked then-White House chief of staff John Kelly, according to an excerpt of “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021,” co-written by New Yorker staff writer Susan Glasser and New York Times correspondent Peter Baker.

When Kelly asked Trump for clarification, the president reportedly replied by specifying, “The German generals in World War II."

Kelly, a retired Marine general, then asked Trump whether he knew that those generals "tried to kill Hitler three times and almost pulled it off."

According to the excerpt, Trump dismissed Kelly's historically accurate description, insisting, "No, no, no, they were totally loyal to him."

Kelly, in an interview with NBC News on Tuesday, confirmed the accuracy of the account in the book excerpt. He said he would tell Trump that the American generals’ first loyalty is to the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law.

Kelly described Trump’s “unwillingness to accept that the American generals should not be loyal to him as the German generals were to the leader of Germany. And, again, I very definitely pointed out that they tried to kill him [Hitler] a number of times.”

The New Yorker published the excerpt Monday.

The exchange was described in the excerpt as “typical” of Trump’s expectation of fealty from his military officers.

The authors wrote that on another occasion, during the summer of 2017, Trump told Kelly that he wanted to hold a military parade and said: “Look, I don’t want any wounded guys in the parade. This doesn’t look good for me.”

“Those are the heroes,” Kelly reportedly protested.

NBC News has asked a Trump spokesman for comment.

Kelly joined the Trump administration in 2017 as homeland security secretary and later became White House chief of staff. He left about midway through Trump's presidency.

Other parts of the book excerpt focused on Gen. Mark Milley, who has been the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since October 2019. The coming book includes a resignation letter Milley drafted after the violent clearing of Lafayette Square near the White House on June 1, 2020. Milley wrote in the draft letter, which he didn’t submit, that he worried that Trump was “doing great and irreparable harm” to the country and that he had concerns about the president's "concerted effort over time to politicize the United States military."

Milley's letter also described how he didn't think Trump understood a generation that "fought against Nazism, has fought against extremism,” adding, “It’s now obvious to me that you don’t understand that world order."

"In fact, you subscribe to many of the principles that we fought against. And I cannot be a party to that," Milley added.

According to the excerpt, Milley also feared Trump's "Hitler-like" espousal of election lies.

NBC News has asked the Defense Department for comment.