On MSNBC Wednesday, author David Rothkopf told anchor Nicolle Wallace about what was going on behind the scenes with military officials during Donald Trump's presidency as he sought to use the armed forces for political purposes — and when he suggested to people like Defense Secretary James Mattis that the military implement schemes like an alligator-filled moat at the southern border.
Many military officials had to fight against their own instincts to follow orders in order to talk the former president down from his craziest, most illegal ideas, said Rothkopf.
"It is so hard to glean this kind of insight as to what most senior military officials went through," said Wallace. "What you put together in your account about Mattis is staggering, stunning, and feels like we still haven't emptied out everything he asked of his military."
"Absolutely true," said Rothkopf. "I think Trump tried to use the military as a prop, and he sought to do it in a way that ran counter to everything the military has been about since the beginning of the republic. He wanted to politicize it, and wanted to do incredibly irresponsible things with the most powerful force that exists on earth. These military officers had to overcome the natural tendency to say 'yes, sir' and go to a next level, where they're not allowed to follow illegal orders, and they can provide advice to steer the president away."
Oftentimes, Rothkopf added, it was simply a matter of stalling the former president until whatever thought he was demanding they act on left his mind.
"When Mattis and others would get these calls, you know, sometimes it would be in the middle of the night, the response would be, hmm, interesting idea, Mr. President, let's discuss that tomorrow over lunch. Sometimes it took a lot more than just delaying and deferring. It took cabinet secretaries and others working together to ensure that the law was followed, and the national interests were protected. It was a constant struggle from day one until the day he left office."
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