Trump told top US general to ‘crack skulls’ of racism protesters, book claims
Gen Mark Milley, the top US military leader, resisted Donald Trump’s demands that his forces “crack skulls” and “beat the fuck out” of protesters marching against police brutality and structural racism, according to a much-trailed new book.
“Just shoot them,” the president reportedly said.
CNN reported the latest excerpts from Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost by Michael Bender, a Wall Street Journal reporter. The book will be published in August.
This week, Milley made headlines with remarks before a congressional committee about critical race theory, an academic discipline that explores racism in American law and institutions that has been targeted by Republicans, in relation to the US army and its academy at West Point.
“I want to understand white rage,” the general said, “and I’m white, and I want to understand it.”
When Trump was in power, Milley had to deal repeatedly with presidential rage.
According to CNN, Trump highlighted footage of confrontations between law enforcement officers and protesters and said: “That’s how you’re supposed to handle these people. Crack their skulls!”
Trump also reportedly told law enforcement and military leaders he wanted the military to “beat the fuck out” of protesters and said: “Just shoot them.”
Bender reports that in the face of opposition from Milley and the then attorney general, William Barr, Trump said: “Well, shoot them in the leg – or maybe the foot. But be hard on them!”
Milley is also reported to have told Stephen Miller, a senior Trump adviser, to “shut the fuck up”, after Miller said “cities are burning” amid protests prompted by the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis last May.
Throughout a tense summer, Trump threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act, a historic piece of legislation regarding domestic unrest, but ultimately did not do so.
Bender reports that at one stage Milley pointed at a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president who led the Union to victory in the civil war, and told Trump: “That guy had an insurrection. What we have, Mr President, is a protest.”
One such protest, in Lafayette Square outside the White House last June, was forcibly and controversially cleared before Trump posed for pictures outside a historic church.
Milley apologised for accompanying Trump on his own march.
“As many of you saw the results of the photograph of me in Lafayette Square last week, that sparked a national debate about the role of the military in civil society,” he told students at National Defense University.
“I should not have been there. My presence in that moment, and in that environment, created the perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”
On Capitol Hill this week, Milley discussed the deadly 6 January attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters seeking to overturn his election defeat, which Congress deemed an insurrection when it impeached Trump for inciting it.
“What is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the constitution of the United States of America?” Milley asked. “What caused that? I want to find that out. I want to maintain an open mind here.”