Trump-Milley Conflict Played Crucial Role in Classified Documents Case

The feud between former President Trump and the nation’s highest-ranking military official, Gen. Mark Milley, played a significant role in the unprecedented indictment of Trump for alleged criminal manipulation of personal data handed down last week.

After a New Yorker article documented Milley’s attempts to discourage Trump from invading Iran during his final days in office, essential audio showed Trump trying to prove his version of the story.

Trump said he had a paper detailing a “plan of attαck” on Iran that proved it was Milley’s concept. He stated he was aware the document was confidential and had not been declassified by him, contradicting several of his allegations in the case. The existence of the document in question is unknown.

The encounter highlights a turbulent relationship that began in late 2018 when the previous president appointed Milley as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The public rivalry has been one-sided, with Trump raging at Milley since leaving office. While Milley has not officially responded to the former president, he has admitted to often speaking on the record with reporters.

Trump-Milley Conflict Played Crucial Role in Classified Documents Case

While Trump disagreed with several of his cabinet members and advisors, disagreements with Milley were likely more damaging because of the military’s public prestige, according to Peter Feaver, a Duke University professor of political science specializing in the military.

“Trump and Milley had a particularly fractious relationship, as stormy as any in modern times,” Milley’s confidante Feaver claimed. “It probably irritated former President Trump that a leader of an institution that the public held in high regard… was disparaging him.”

In the case, Todd Blanche, Trump’s attorney declined to comment on this article. U.S. official who spoke anonymously because the issue involves a federal lawsuit, Milley does not consider himself in an ongoing feud with Trump.

“The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff does not have a feud with a sitting or former president of the United States,” he stated.

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On Tuesday, Trump is scheduled to be arraigned in a Florida court on 37 counts of mishandling secret materials and hindering federal authorities from recovering them. The former president has labeled special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation a “witch hunt.”

Trump battled with Milley numerous times throughout his presidency, according to reports that have mostly surfaced since he left office.

During racial justice protests in 2020, Trump posed for a photo with Milley, dressed in camouflage battle fatigues, at St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C.

Milley then apologized for participating in the photo session, which appeared to indicate military approval. The photo was also criticized because police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators to make space for Trump.

Milley apparently conveyed his displeasure with the photo during a meeting with Trump. He had also privately told Trump that he disapproved of sending the military to quash the protests, prompting him to yell at him.

According to the New York Times, Milley considered resigning in his rage but opted against it.

Following the rioting at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, Milley reportedly tried to limit Trump’s authority to launch military attαcks, fearing the president would go “rogue” and be of sound mind.

After leaving office, Trump publicly expressed his displeasure with Milley, calling him a “dumbass” in one remark that also chastised him for the bungled withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021.

Trump reportedly began to portray the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as “unintelligent and untrustworthy,” according to people who spoke to Robert Costa, co-author of “Peril,” a book on Trump’s final days in office.

Last August, a book excerpt released in the New Yorker showed Trump and Milley’s battle during the president’s final days in the White House.

Milley pledged to “fight from the inside” against a president he perceived as “doing great and irreparable harm” to the country after deciding not to quit in 2020.

The excerpt also revealed Milley’s relentless efforts to persuade Trump not to strike Iran, a portrayal Trump sought to debunk in a conversation now at the heart of the federal case against the former president.

A July 2021 video, revealed this month, captured Trump chatting to a group of people, including a writer, at his Bedminster, New Jersey, club as he allegedly tried to prove Milley was wrong.

“He claimed I intended to invade Iran. Isn’t that incredible?” Trump remarked. “I have a lot of papers, and this just came up.” Look. He was the one. They presented me with this — not on the record, but they showed it to me. He was the one. This was him and the Defense Department.”

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The document to which Trump was referring has yet to be discovered by his lawyers. Still, the exchange is highlighted in the indictment as proof contradicting Trump’s public claims that he declassified all of the records he possessed.

Since rumors surfaced that Trump kept 300 sensitive documents after leaving office, speculation has swirled over why. Duke University’s Feaver Trump’s goal could have been to save records allowing him to score “a point against a critic.”

“That would be one possible explanation for why he might be holding onto documents he shouldn’t be holding onto,” Feaver added. “And it sounds like it fits that pattern in this [Milley] case.” The episode may also indicate Trump’s uncertainty about his duty as commander-in-chief.

“Most commanders in chief arrive in the office without really knowing much about the job,” he remarked. “And then, most presidents grow into the job — but there’s not much evidence that President Trump grew into the job.”

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