Gen. Mark Milley's fears that former president Donald Trump would launch a Nazi-style "coup" to retain his grip on power have been widely reported in recent days.
But Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had also prepared for another "nightmare scenario" that could serve as Trump's so-called "Reichstag moment."
Trump desperately wanted to launch airstrikes against Iran, and in fact came "very close" to starting a war with the Middle East's second-largest country, according to a report from the New Yorker's Susan B. Glasser, who conducted more than 200 interviews for a book about the Trump presidency that will be published next year.
"This dangerous post-election period, Milley said, was all because of Trump's 'Hitler'-like embrace of the 'Big Lie' that the election had been stolen from him; Milley feared it was Trump's 'Reichstag moment,' in which, like Adolf Hitler in 1933, he would manufacture a crisis in order to swoop in and rescue the nation from it," Glasser reports.
"A running concern for Milley was the prospect of Trump pushing the nation into a military conflict with Iran. He saw this as a real threat, in part because of a meeting with the President in the early months of 2020, at which one of Trump's advisers raised the prospect of taking military action to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons if Trump were to lose the election," she writes. "At another meeting, at which Trump was not present, some of the President's foreign-policy advisers again pushed military action against Iran. Milley later said that, when he asked why they were so intent on attacking Iran, Vice-President Mike Pence replied, 'Because they are evil.'"
In the wake of the November election, Trump repeatedly raised the subject of Iran in White House meetings, as the president "kept pushing for a missile strike in response to various provocations against U.S. interests in the region," Glasser reports.
But Milley pushed back: "If you do this, you're gonna have a f*cking war," he reportedly told the president.
On Jan. 3, after Trump flew back from his Christmas vacation at Mar-a-Lago, he convened yet another meeting about Iran to ask his advisers "about recent reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran's nuclear activities."
But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national-security adviser, Robert O'Brien reportedly convinced Trump that it was "too late to hit them," because his presidency would soon end.
"After Milley walked through the potential costs and consequences, Trump agreed. And that was that: after months of anxiety and uncertainty, the Iran fight was over."
At this same meeting — which marks the last time Trump and Milley spoke — Trump reportedly asked his advisers if they were prepared for the upcoming "wild" rally by his supporters on Jan. 6.
"It's gonna be a big deal," Milley heard Trump say. "You're ready for that, right?"