Milley disputes Trump’s claim that he recommended an attack on Iran

You can watch the full interview with General Mark Milley on “Fareed Zakaria GPS” Sunday at 10 a.m. ET.


Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview Wednesday that he never recommended a U.S. military attack on Iran during the Trump administration, pushing back claims by former President Donald Trump and his White House chief of staff. Staff Mark Meadows.

“I can assure you that I have never once recommended attacking Iran,” Milley said.

Milley, an Army general who is retiring at the end of the month as the nation’s top military officer, served as chairman of Trump’s Joint Chiefs of Staff during the final 16 months of his term. He played an outsized role in some of the most significant events of Trump’s presidency, including the response to the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 and the actions he took after January 6, 2001, when he feared that Trump would become a “thug”.

Milley also became a significant figure in special prosecutor Jack Smith’s indictment of Trump for his alleged mishandling of classified documents, when Trump claimed to have a plan to attack Iran written by Milley.

Trump was captured on audio tape speaking about the plan with Meadows’ biographers in July 2021 at his resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, acknowledging that he had not declassified the document.

Listen to exclusive audio of Trump discussing classified documents in 2021

“As president, I could have declassified it, but now I can’t,” Trump said of the document, according to the transcript of the recording, first reported by CNN.

Milley told Zakaria he did not know the specific document Trump was referring to. CNN previously reported that it was not Milley’s author.

“I don’t know the document they’re talking about. I never saw – no one introduced me to what he was talking about. So, I still can’t comment on that,” Milley said. “But I can assure you that, you know, a military attack on Iran is a very, very serious undertaking. We have capabilities. We intend – which is not particularly unusual – to comment on this. But I’m not going to go any further and discuss any details.

In a new indictment filed against Trump in July, the special prosecutor’s team alleged that Trump deliberately kept a top secret document that was a “presentation regarding military activity in a foreign country,” which CNN reported , was Iran.

During the July 2021 meeting with Meadows’ biographers, Trump complained about Milley shortly after The New Yorker published an article detailing how Milley had asked the Joint Chiefs to ensure that Trump issued no illegal orders in the final days of his presidency.

In his book “The Chief’s Chief,” Meadows references the Iran meeting and document, saying Milley urged Trump to attack Iran more than once during Trump’s presidency, but that Trump wouldn’t do it.

“The President recalls a four-page report written by Mark Milley himself,” Meadows wrote. “It contained the general’s own plan to attack Iran, deploying massive numbers of troops, something he urged President Trump to do repeatedly during his presidency. President Trump has rejected these requests each time.

Milley told Zakaria that he did not know what Meadows had written, but reiterated that he never recommended an attack on Iran.

“I can tell you with certainty that this president has never recommended a massive attack on Iran,” Milley said. “And to achieve that, I think it would take a significant degree of risk that we might or might not want to take given the circumstances, but that part didn’t happen. And I’m not sure I don’t know the exact quotes from Mr. Meadows, but I can assure you that I know what I did and that I am not recommending an attack on Iran.

In the interview, Milley also discussed participating in Trump’s march from the White House through Lafayette Square to St. John’s Church, where he took part in a photo op with Trump outside from the church after the forced dispersal of peaceful demonstrators in front of the White House. .

A week later, Milley apologized for the appearance, angering Trump.

“The mistake I made was that I unintentionally walked into a political event, but it is a political event nonetheless. And I was in uniform. So, that shouldn’t happen,” Milley told Zakaria. “It’s not President Trump. It’s me. President Trump is a politician. He can do whatever he wants. But as a soldier, I should never go into politics. And as soon as I recognized it – it lasted about 30-40 seconds, pictures were taken, it lasted a lifetime. But as soon as I recognized him, I left.

Milley said if he could do it over again, he would have said no to Trump.

“At the end of the day, the United States of America is a democratic, healthy, independent republic. We don’t want our military involved in real American domestic politics,” Milley said. “It is true that war is a violent policy. But that’s a different case. We are talking about American domestic politics, and the American military is not involved in it.”

Asked about China, Milley acknowledged Wednesday that it was “very possible” that the United States is overestimating its capabilities, but maintained that the United States cannot stand still and fail to modernize while China continues to do it.

“They want to meet or exceed U.S. military capabilities by mid-century. So we’re not going to stand still,” Milley said. “The United States will continue to modernize and invest. »

He added that while China can be “assessed in different ways,” it is “certainly” a great power and the United States should “do its best to avoid open armed conflict with China.”

“(H)opefully, with a lot of good diplomacy, and really try to resolve the differences that exist between the United States and China, resolve them, so that they don’t end up in a full-blown war power. ” Milley said. “But part of this, fundamental, is maintaining an exceptionally strong U.S. military and making sure that the Chinese know that we are much better than them in all areas of warfare, and that we have the will to fight. ‘to use. »

“And if you do that,” he added, “then deterrence will prevail.”


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