Former US President Donald Trump and General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reportedly had stormy discussions on how to handle racial injustice protests that came to the surface during the summer of 2020, according to the book 'Frankly, We Did Win This Election' written by The Wall Street Journal's Michael Bender and cited by Axios.
According to the report, at the time when Trump sought to invoke the Insurrection Act - a US federal law allowing a president to deploy military and National Guard troops within the country in particular circumstances - he wanted to put Milley in charge of a military campaign to tackle protests against police brutality and racism, some of which later evolved into riots.
Axios quoted the book as saying:
Seated in the Situation Room with [Attorney General Bill] Barr, Milley, and [Secretary of Defense Mark] Esper, Trump exaggerated claims about the violence and alarmed officials ... by announcing he’d just put Milley "in charge."
Privately, Milley confronted Trump about his role. He was an adviser, and not in command. But Trump had had enough.
"I said you're in f***ing charge!" Trump shouted at him.
"Well, I'm not in charge!" Milley yelled back.
"You can't f***ing talk to me like that!" Trump said.
"Goddamnit," Milley said to others. "There's a room full of lawyers here. Will someone inform him of my legal responsibilities?"
"He's right, Mr. President," Barr said. "The general is right."
The former president does not share the book's version of events as, according to Axios, Trump said through an aide that the argument with Milley never occurred.
"This is totally fake news, it never ever happened. I'm not a fan of Gen. Milley, but I never had an argument with him and the whole thing is false", Axios quoted Trump as saying. "He never talked back to me. Michael Bender never asked me about it and it's totally fake news."
The former US president reportedly later noted that, if General Milley had actually yelled at him, he would have been fired by Trump.
Bender defended his reporting, asserting that "the exchange was confirmed by multiple senior administration officials during the course of hundreds of hours of interviews with dozens of top Trump World aides for this book."
"Contrary to Mr. Trump’s assertion, I asked the former president for his side of this particular argument in a written question — as he requested — along with other queries included in my thorough fact-checking process. He did not reply", Bender said, cited by the outlet.
Trump has accused the US military of being "woke", particularly piquing "these generals on television" - a description many thought was attributed to Milley, who earlier spoke about the critical race theory (a movement claiming that the American social system is fundamentally racist).
"I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military — our general officers, our commissioned and non-commissioned officers — of being, quote, 'woke' or something else because we're studying some theories that are out there", Milley said at a House Armed Services Committee earlier in the month.