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Gen. Milley faces radical pushback from Trump, GOP’s Gosar

Donald Trump's criticisms of Gen. Mark Milley have taken a dangerous turn. It was against this backdrop that Rep. Paul Gosar made matters even worse.


By any fair measure, Donald Trump did not always see eye to eye with Gen. Mark Milley, the man the Republican tapped to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In June 2020, for example, the general publicly expressed regret for his role in Trump’s Lafayette Square debacle — and the then-president wasn’t pleased by Milley’s reaction.

After Trump’s election defeat, he became even more eager to condemn the general. In 2021, for example, the former president said on the record that he considered Milley a “dumbass.” Earlier this year, the Republican said on Fox News that the Army general is an “idiot.”

But as the Army general prepares to retire after a long and decorated career, Milley is shedding new light on how difficult, dangerous, and at times ugly Trump’s presidency was. It stood to reason that the Republican would throw some kind of tantrum in response; the question was what exactly Trump might say.

Now we know. Writing in The Atlantic, Brian Klaas explained:

Late Friday night, the former president of the United States — and a leading candidate to be the next president — insinuated that America’s top general deserves to be put to death. That extraordinary sentence would be unthinkable in any other rich democracy.

I can appreciate why such a description might seem hyperbolic, but Trump’s online missive is online for all to see.

After insisting that the general’s retirement is grounds for national celebration, Trump wrote, in reference to Milley, “This guy turned out to be a Woke train wreck who, if the Fake News reporting is correct, was actually dealing with China to give them a heads up on the thinking of the President of the United States.

“This is an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH! A war between China and the United States could have been the result of this treasonous act. To be continued!!!”

To the extent that reality still has any meaning, Milley did contact Chinese officials in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack, assuring Beijing that the United States was stable during the presidential transition process. The diplomatic outreach was, as The Washington Post reported, “authorized by Trump administration officials at the time.”

Or put another way, there is no sane way to characterize what transpired as “treasonous” — a word Trump has casually thrown around in recent years without cause — and the Republican’s reference to “DEATH!” was needlessly provocative and potentially dangerous.

But I was also struck by the final three words of Trump’s rant.

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg spoke at length with Milley, and his latest report included this memorable paragraph: “Milley has told friends that he expects that if Trump returns to the White House, the newly elected president will come after him. ‘He’ll start throwing people in jail, and I’d be on the top of the list,’ he has said.”

The sentiment came to mind after seeing the former president write, “To be continued!!!”

Making matters worse, Trump isn’t the only Republican going down this road. The Daily Beast reported:

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) used his weekly email newsletter — hosted on a .gov domain that is funded by American taxpayers — on Sunday to launch a thinly veiled, homophobic attack on Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, shockingly suggesting Milley should be put to death.

As part of a bizarre harangue related to Jan. 6, the Arizona congressman referred to Milley as “the homosexual-promoting-BLM-activist Chairman of the military joint chiefs.” Gosar’s newsletter went on to say, “Of course, we now know that the deviant Milley was coordinating with Nancy Pelosi to hurt President Trump, and treasonously working behind Trump’s back. In a better society, quislings like the strange sodomy-promoting General Milley would be hung.”

I won’t bother to fact-check such a missive, except to note that Gosar’s claims are stark raving mad.

As for Trump’s and Gosar’s references to executions, I’ll look forward to Republican leaders’ comments about their comfort level with such rhetoric.