Former President Donald Trump said Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley should resign and “be replaced with someone who is actually willing to defend our military from the leftist radicals who hate our country and flag” in a statement released on Wednesday.
The comments were spurred by a new book by Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender which alleges the two leaders got into a profanity-laced fight in summer 2020 over how the U.S. military should respond to racial equality protests occurring throughout the country.
According to Axios, which reviewed an advanced copy of the volume, Milley attempted to explain his role as Joint Chiefs chairman as an advisory role to the White House, and not a direct command for all military members. Trump would not accept that, and other officials had to intervene to calm the situation.
Trump denied such a meeting ever occurred, and on Wednesday blamed Milley for fabricating the anecdote.
“When Black Lives Matter rioters were threatening to destroy Washington, D.C., he practically begged me not to send in the military to stop the riots,” Trump said in the statement.
“Now, in yet another desperate ploy to impress the radical left and keep his job, Milley made up a false story that he yelled at me in the Situation Room. This is totally fake news. If he had displayed such disrespect for his commander-in-chief I would have fired him immediately.”
Trump in December 2018 passed over several other candidates to name Milley as Joint Chiefs chairman, at the time calling him an “incredible” officer.
But the relationship between the two appeared to sour in June 2020, after Milley apologized for appearing in a photo-op with Trump outside the White House following the violent removal of protestors from Lafayette Square.
At the time, Milley said that his presence there “created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”
Wednesday’s attack by Trump comes less than a week after he called Milley “pathetic” during an interview on Newsmax, and said he would have fired Milley if he had spoken publicly about racial education and understanding while the former president was still in office.
Those comments were prompted by Milley’s appearance before the House Armed Services Committee, where he defended courses at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point which teach topics like critical race theory.
“I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the U.S. military, general officers, commissioned and noncommissioned officers of being quote ‘woke,’ or something else because we’re studying some theories that are out there,” he said.
Milley has not made any public comments about either statement by Trump. His spokesman, Army Col. Dave Butler, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. White House officials have not responded to requests for comment on the former president’s fight with the current Joint Chiefs chairman.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.