POLITICS

Trump Threatened To Withhold Friendship From Pence Over Election Certification: Book

A new book shines fresh light on the final days of the Trump administration, when a top general feared the president had gone into "serious mental decline."

Donald Trump reportedly pressured Mike Pence to disrupt the official election certification process in his waning days in office by telling the vice president: “I don’t want to be your friend anymore if you don’t do this.” 

The allegation comes from an upcoming book by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, “Peril,” which is based on more than 200 interviews with people who worked in and around the former administration. CNN and The Washington Post received advance copies.

Although Pence ultimately did not move to stop the proceedings, “Peril” claims that he tried finding rationale for acquiescing to Trump’s demands ― and found none. The vice president oversees the congressional certification process, but the role is largely ceremonial. 

Still, Trump allegedly tried to convince Pence to overturn the results by asking, “Wouldn’t it be almost cool to have that power?” 

Per the book, Pence replied, “No. I’ve done everything I could and then some to find a way around this. It’s simply not possible.”

Trump then became agitated, screaming, “No!” 

“You don’t understand, Mike. You can do this. I don’t want to be your friend anymore if you don’t do this,” he said, according to the book. 

Then-President Donald Trump reportedly lashed out at Vice President Mike Pence when he refused to meddle in the certification
Then-President Donald Trump reportedly lashed out at Vice President Mike Pence when he refused to meddle in the certification of the 2020 election results. 

Among the most harrowing revelations in “Peril” are the efforts made by the nation’s top military general to ensure that Trump would not take reckless military action in the days following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. 

Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley worried that Trump would “go rogue” and potentially use nuclear weapons or order another type of strike, the book says, building on previous reporting about concerns that Trump would do something rash to distract from mounting problems at the end of his term. Trump had egged on hordes of his supporters on Jan. 6, and only reluctantly told them to leave in peace after their violent assault on the Capitol.

Milley “was certain,” the book’s authors write, “that Trump had gone into a serious mental decline in the aftermath of the election, with Trump now all but manic, screaming at officials and constructing his own alternate reality about endless election conspiracies.”

On Jan. 8, the general reportedly called a secret meeting at the Pentagon with other senior officials. He reminded them of the official process for ordering military action, which must involve the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. 

“No matter what you are told, you do the procedure. You do the process. And I’m part of that procedure,” Milley told his officers, according to the book. He then went around the room to confirm with each official that they understood.

U.S. Army General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, seen in early September. 
U.S. Army General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, seen in early September. 

The same day, Milley reportedly reached out to his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng, speaking over the phone in secret to assure him the United States was not planning any military action against China. Milley worried that Trump might lash out in unpredictable ways, as his gambit to secure another term by claiming the election was rigged had clearly failed. 

“We are 100% steady,” Milley reportedly said. “But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.”

In an earlier back-channel call with Zuocheng, the general had assured his counterpart that any potential attack on China would not be a surprise, according to the book. 

Milley had been required to assure House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that the country’s nuclear arsenal was safe and secure after the Jan. 6 attack, according to a transcript of the call obtained by the authors.

“What I’m saying to you is that if they couldn’t even stop him from an assault on the Capitol, who even knows what else he may do?” Pelosi allegedly said in the conversation, which was previously reported. “And is there anybody in charge at the White House who was doing anything but kissing his fat butt all over this?”

She added: “You know he’s crazy.”

Milley said he agreed with her “on everything.”

Then-CIA Director Gina Haspel also voiced concerns, reportedly telling Milley: “We are on the way to a right-wing coup. The whole thing is insanity. He is acting out like a 6-year-old with a tantrum.”

The authors of “Peril” write that Milley became dead-set on ensuring a peaceful transition of power on Jan. 20, when President Joe Biden was inaugurated without incident.