Former President Donald Trump approaches the U.S. military the way a mob boss would command his family, argued retired four-star Gen. Barry McCaffrey on MSNBC’s “Deadline: White House” on Thursday.
This comes after a lengthy report detailed how Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley and several other military and intelligence officials had to restrain the former president’s worst impulses throughout his time in office.
“I want to share with you new reporting, again about something that was widely reported, but we didn’t have chairman Milley’s voice on it or his conversations with Trump on the record so on the record for the first time, from The Atlantic,” said anchor Nicolle Wallace.
“Quote, ‘In November 2019, Trump decided to intervene in three different cases that have been working their way through the military justice system.
In the most infamous case, the Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher had been found guilty of posing with the corpse of an Islamic State prisoner.
Though Gallagher was found not guilty of murder, witnesses testified that he’d stabbed the prisoner in the neck with a hunting knife. In an extraordinary move, Trump reversed the Navy’s decision to demote him in rank late one night on Air Force One.
Milley tried to convince Trump that his intrusion was damaging Navy morale. Trump called Gallagher a ‘hero’ and said he didn’t understand why he was being punished.
Quote, ‘Because he slit the throat of a wounded prisoner,’ Milley said. Quote, ‘The guy was going to die anyway,’ Trump said. Milley answered, quote, ‘Mr. President, we have military ethics and laws about what happens in battle. We can’t do that kind of thing, it’s a war crime.
Trump answered that he didn’t understand the big deal. He went on, quote, ‘You guys—’ meaning combat soldiers, ‘are all just killers, what’s the difference,’ end quote.”
“Again, General McCaffery, I have no words,” said Wallace. “I’m eager to hear yours.”
“Well, one thing the country needs to understand clearly, is that under the Constitution … there’s only two people who can give a lawful order to the Armed Forces,” said McCaffrey.
“They’re both civilians. One’s the commander-in-chief, the president in that function, and the other is the Secretary of Defense. The Chairman of the JCS has zero command authority, nor do the service chiefs their advisers — they’re advisers to the president, vice president, National Security Council.”
What that means, McCaffrey continued, is that “when we end up with a president like Trump, who essentially is a Mafia-like figure in his understanding of the use of military power, or for that matter, domestic law enforcement, who lacks character,
Who has installed in office an acting Secretary of Defense and his gang of cohorts who he has reason to believe will follow his orders, then we’re in enormous peril.
That’s what we’re seeing, again, out of this brilliantly resourced article … we have no defense against a president with this lack of character, and we were in enormous national peril.”