The President as Coup Plotter

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 07: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Army General Mark Milley looks on after a briefing from senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room at the White Hous... WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 07: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Army General Mark Milley looks on after a briefing from senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room at the White House on October 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. Trump spoke about the pull-out of U.S troops in northeastern Syria and the impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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July 15, 2021 10:56 a.m.

We’re seeing a raft of stories yesterday and today about a new book from two Washington Post reporters which among other things provides Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley’s account of the aftermath of the 2020 election. In short, he says he and his colleagues were seriously concerned that the defeated President was plotting a coup to remain in office and did everything he could to stand against it.

Milley is a critical and fascinating player in this whole drama. You’ll remember that he accompanied the President on his Lafayette Square photo op debacle and then felt compelled – rightly – to apologize for having done so. But long before that the word was that Milley had gotten the top job in significant part because he had leaned more forward in ingratiating himself with the President than the other top contender for the job. More recently he’s been having a bit of a moment with Democrats. There was that exchange he had in his Capitol Hill testimony pushing back against anti-Critical Race Theory hysteria. And there have been a series of reports over recent weeks which hint at these new revelations.

Needless to say, this is all Milley’s account, seemingly not terribly filtered. Like everyone talking to the press about events of such profound controversy, he’s trying to paint himself and his actions in the best possible light. That’s a given. And yet there is a lot of contemporaneous evidence that Trump did do these things and that Milley acted something like how he describes. A lot of cryptic or ambiguous actions and statements out of the JCS in December and January also fit into this puzzle.

But that’s why you need an investigation. So it’s good one is finally starting now. It will take some time to sort out the self-serving accounts from the ones that really bear out. Even the most candid first-person account cannot be the full story because no single person is in a position to have witnessed the full story. For now it is more evidence of what we still – six months on – seem mostly in denial about: a defeated President plotted to overthrow the government to remain in power. The nation’s top general and his colleagues had to come up with contingency plans to thwart the coup they believed the commander-in-chief of the military was plotting.

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