An excerpt from an upcoming book, “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021,” reveals the four-paragraph letter of resignation that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley almost sent to former President Donald Trump.
In the excerpt, published by the New Yorker, Susan Glasser, a writer for the New Yorker, recounts Milley’s service during the Trump administration, portraying the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a dedicated military officer who disliked Trump, saying that despite the former President’s “fits of rage, late-night Twitter storms” and “abrupt dismissals,” Milley was determined not to resign, in the book’s perspective for the good of the country.
However, at one point during the Trump presidency, Milley nearly resigned, going so far as to write a letter of resignation.
This occurred in June 2020, during the riots that ensued following the death of George Floyd. Rioters tied to Black Lives Matter had attempted to burn down St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C.’s, Lafayette Square and had failed. Trump, accompanied by several advisers and Cabinet members, walked to the church and took photos while the president held up a Bible. Milley was among that group.
Media sources had claimed that a crowd of BLM protesters had been “violently” cleared from the Square by the U.S. Park Police specifically for the photos. However, a year later, the inspector general of the Interior Department released a report stating that the USPP had cleared the park to allow fencing to be installed “in response to destruction of property and injury to officers.”
Glasser tells readers in the book, “Most of the demonstrations had been peaceful, but there were also eruptions of looting, street violence and arson, including a small fire in St. John’s Church across from the White House.”
Because members of the military are expected to remain apolitical and he had participated in a “political event,” Milley regretted his actions, and, in his commencement address to the graduating class of the National Defense University, Milley apologized, saying, “I should never have been there. As senior leaders, everything you do will be closely watched, and I am not immune, as many of you saw the result of that photograph of me at Lafayette Square last week.”
“I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics. As a commissioned, uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from and I sincerely hope we all can learn from it.”
The event also prompted him to write the following letter:
“I regret to inform you that I intend to resign as your Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” it begins. “Thank you for the honor of appointing me as senior ranking officer. The events of the last couple weeks have caused me to do deep soul-searching, and I can no longer faithfully support and execute your orders as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It is my belief that you were doing great and irreparable harm to my country. I believe that you have made a concerted effort over time to politicize the United States military. I thought that I could change that. I’ve come to the realization that I cannot, and I need to step aside and let someone else try to do that.
“Second, you are using the military to create fear in the minds of the people—and we are trying to protect the American people. I cannot stand idly by and participate in that attack, verbally or otherwise, on the American people. The American people trust their military and they trust us to protect them against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and our military will do just that. We will not turn our back on the American people.
“Third, I swore an oath to the Constitution of the United States and embodied within that Constitution is the idea that says that all men and women are created equal. All men and women are created equal, no matter who you are, whether you are white or Black, Asian, Indian, no matter the color of your skin, no matter if you’re gay, straight or something in between. It doesn’t matter if you’re Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jew, or choose not to believe. None of that matters. It doesn’t matter what country you came from, what your last name is—what matters is we’re Americans. We’re all Americans. That under these colors of red, white, and blue—the colors that my parents fought for in World War II—means something around the world. It’s obvious to me that you don’t think of those colors the same way I do. It’s obvious to me that you don’t hold those values dear and the cause that I serve.
“And lastly it is my deeply held belief that you’re ruining the international order, and causing significant damage to our country overseas, that was fought for so hard by the Greatest Generation that they instituted in 1945. Between 1914 and 1945, 150 million people were slaughtered in the conduct of war. They were slaughtered because of tyrannies and dictatorships. That generation, like every generation, has fought against that, has fought against fascism, has fought against Nazism, has fought against extremism. It’s now obvious to me that you don’t understand that world order. You don’t understand what the war was all about. In fact, you subscribe to many of the principles that we fought against. And I cannot be a party to that. It is with deep regret that I hereby submit my letter of resignation.”
Milley never submitted the letter to the former president, opting instead to take a different approach to his disagreements with the former president and actively undermine him.
As Glasser writes, “Milley had finally come to a decision. He would not quit. ‘F— that s—,’ he told his staff. ‘I’ll just fight him.’ The challenge, as he saw it, was to stop Trump from doing any more damage.”
Milley remained in the White House after Trump left, still serving under President Biden.