Two days after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, Gen. Mark A. Milley spoke to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was growing increasingly concerned Mr. Trump would lash out and use military force.
Their conversation was detailed in “Peril,” a recently released book by the Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
“This is bad, but who knows what he might do?” Ms. Pelosi said. “He’s crazy. You know he’s crazy. He’s been crazy for a long time. So don’t say you don’t know what his state of mind is.”
“Madam Speaker,” General Milley said, “I agree with you on everything.”
General Milley, who as the president’s top military adviser is not in the chain of command, tried to reassure Ms. Pelosi that he could stop Mr. Trump.
“The one thing I can guarantee is that, as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I want you to know that — I want you to know this in your heart of hearts, I can guarantee you 110 percent that the military, use of military power, whether it’s nuclear or a strike in a foreign country of any kind, we’re not going to do anything illegal or crazy,” he said.
He offered similar assurances to his Chinese counterpart that day. And after speaking to Ms. Pelosi, he convened a meeting in a war room at the Pentagon with the military’s top commanders, telling them that he wanted to go over the longstanding procedures for launching a nuclear weapon. The general reminded the commanders that only the president could order such a strike and that General Milley needed to be directly involved.
“The strict procedures are explicitly designed to avoid inadvertent mistakes or accident or nefarious, unintentional, illegal, immoral, unethical launching of the world’s most dangerous weapons,” he said.
Then, he went around the room and asked each officer to confirm that they understood what he was saying.