WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, worried that then-President Donald Trump would try to use the military to attempt a coup after the 2020 election and vowed to prevent it.
That’s according to a new book by Washington Post reporters Phil Rucker and Carol Leonnig, “I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year,” which will be released next week. The book, excerpts of which were obtained by NBC News, attributes the accounts of private conversations between military and government officials to myriad unnamed sources, including aides to those involved.
Trump issued a statement Thursday denying that he had ever considered a coup and criticizing Milley, whom he said he appointed only because people he disliked had in turn disliked the general.
"So ridiculous! Sorry to inform you, but an Election is my form of 'coup,' and if I was going to do a coup, one of the last people I would want to do it with is General Mark Milley," Trump said.
Col. Dave Butler, a spokesperson for Milley, declined to comment on the reporting in the book.
Many of the events surrounding the final weeks of Trump's presidency played out in public, including the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, as supporters of the former president attacked the building in an effort to prevent his defeat from being finalized.
But a recent series of new books have offered details about the behind-the-scenes efforts, including that many who remained inside the administration worried about the stability of the government.
The new details come as Trump has re-emerged into public life, holding recent rallies and increasing the frequency of his media appearances and written statements. He was scheduled to meet Thursday with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., a meeting the lawmaker's office said was to discuss the 2022 election.
“They may try” but won't succeed, Milley told his deputies about a possible coup, according to the book. “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.”
The authors wrote that Milley and his deputies feared that people close to Trump would advise him to take rash military action such as launching an armed strike, quickly withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan or deploying troops in a way that was related to the election results.
Milley and the heads of each branch of the military began “informally planning how they could block a presidential order to use the military in a way they considered illegal, or dangerous and ill-advised,” the book said.
Worried about potential disruptions, Milley, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began having regular calls, the authors wrote.
A senior official told the authors the theme of their calls was to ensure there would be a peaceful transfer of power to Joe Biden on Jan. 20.
On Jan. 7, the day after the attack on the Capitol, the three spoke, describing Trump as emotional and angry and asserting that they lacked other allies besides Pat Cipollone, then the White House counsel.
Milley attended the inaugural ceremony for Biden, sitting behind former President Barack Obama.
Former first lady Michelle Obama asked how Milley was feeling.
“No one has a bigger smile today than I do,” he told her, the authors wrote. “You can’t see it under my mask, but I do.”