With advisers like Joint Chiefs of Staff head Gen. Mark Milley, former President Donald Trump hardly needed enemies — at least, if Bob Woodward and Robert Costa are to be believed.
Woodward and Costa’s new book “Peril,” about the events surrounding the 2020 election and unprecedented instability encompassing it, isn’t even out yet and the allegations contained therein have led to calls for Milley’s resignation.
In one excerpt from the book, Milley is alleged to have talked to the Chinese twice to assure them the United States wouldn’t launch an attack — and if they did, he would give Beijing a heads-up. Milley also reportedly told senior officers that if there was any move toward a nuclear launch, while a president could give the order, he needed to be consulted.
That whole series of episodes, if true, skirts with treason when you consider he would be warning an enemy of an attack. Perhaps more crucially, it undermined the bedrock principle of civilian leadership of the military, one of the principles that separates us from an authoritarian state.
When it came to domestic threats, however, Woodward and Costa say Milley was considerably less concerned — so much less that he called the George Floyd riots “penny packet protests.”
According to an excerpt from the book obtained by Fox News, Milley pooh-poohed White House fears that the riots were insurrectionary and “burning America down” during the summer months last year.
“Mr. President, they are not burning it down,” Milley reportedly said. “They used spray paint, Mr. President, that’s not an insurrection.”
According to the book, the conversation took place near the end of May. The date isn’t given, but the protests had spread well beyond Minneapolis by May 27, according to a timeline of events from The New York Times. That’s just two days after Floyd’s death.
A May 30 timeline from Fox News mentions protests or riots in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix and St. Louis, among many others.
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“More than a dozen cities instituted curfews and thousands were arrested, while thousands of National Guard members were deployed in at least 15 states,” Fox News noted.
“When Milley spoke to Trump, however, he reportedly cited data at that time that said there had only been two cities with major protests, while elsewhere it was 20-300 protesters.”
According to Woodward and Costa, Milley then pointed to a portrait of former President Abraham Lincoln and said the protests and riots couldn’t be compared to the attack on Fort Sumter which started the Civil War in 1861.
“We’re a country of 330 million people. You’ve got these penny packet protests,” Milley said, adding that it couldn’t be compared to the riots which engulfed the country in 1968, according to the book.
Milley also reportedly blamed systematic racism for the protests and said anger had “pent up in communities that have been experiencing what they perceive to be police brutality.”
Milley was, if nothing else, a bad prognosticator.
The George Floyd riots would go on to cost America up to $2 billion in insurance claims, according to estimates obtained by Axios in September of last year. That would likely make them the most costly riots of all time, surpassing the Los Angeles riot of 1992; that cost $775 million in insurance claims at the time, which would be $1.42 billion in 2020 dollars.
The three most costly riots of 1968, meanwhile, barely topped $300 million in damage when adjusted for 2020 dollars.
More importantly, the George Floyd riots would rend our national fabric more than any domestic event in recent memory. It would enable the worst elements in the Black Lives Matter and antifa movements.
The protests — and the so-called anti-racist movement they supercharged — also became an avenue for expressing explicitly anti-American sentiments. How many times, for example, did we witness scenes like this?
— Brendan Gutenschwager (@BGOnTheScene) August 23, 2020
Those weren’t the riots that Milley was worried about, though. According to the book, he was more concerned with the Capitol incursion, which the book alleges he perceived as being “indeed a coup attempt and nothing less than ‘treason.’”
The book goes on to say Milley was afraid Trump wanted a “Reichstag moment” — referring to the Reichstag fire, a relatively minor incident in 1933 which Adolf Hitler used as an excuse to consolidate power in Nazi Germany — and that the attack was “so unimagined and savage, could be a dress rehearsal for something larger” for Trump supporters.
It’s not that Milley was the only man expressing these overheated sentiments about the Capitol incursion — but if these reports are true, at some point during the past year, Milley became one of America’s wokest generals, if not the wokest. There’s a clear throughline from his remarks about the George Floyd riots to his testimony before Congress defending his inclusion of critical race theory in military education, and it’s one that doesn’t bode well for the future.
Everything in the report comes with a huge asterisk, of course, given Bob Woodward’s history of problematic investigative journalism. If true, however, it’s more evidence Milley needs to resign posthaste.
Calling the George Floyd riots nothing more than graffiti artists and “penny packet protests” doesn’t rise to the level of treason, but it’s more evidence that this isn’t the man who should be one of the president’s top military advisers.