Report: Trump demanded his generals be loyal like German generals were to Hitler
New book claims exchange came as top US army officers pushed back against then-president’s plan to hold a military parade in Washington, warning him that’s ‘what dictators do’
Former US president Donald Trump clashed repeatedly with his generals over his desire to hold a huge military parade in Washington, DC, lamenting that they weren’t showing the same devotion that he claimed Hitler enjoyed, the New Yorker reported Monday.
Trump had pushed for a Fourth of July parade in Washington that would include a grand display of military hardware, after he attended France’s Bastille Day and its annual martial display in 2017. The Paris event also commemorated 100 years since the US entry into World War I.
According to the report, Paul Selva, an Air Force general and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Trump it was a bad idea and that “it’s what dictators do.”
Generals also pointed out the huge cost of Trump’s envisioned parade, which included tanks rolling through Washington, and noted the damage it would do to the city’s infrastructure.
Later, as Trump grew frustrated that the generals were not exhibiting blind loyalty to him, he exclaimed to his chief of staff, John Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general: “You fucking generals, why can’t you be like the German generals?”
“Which generals?” Kelly asked.
“The German generals in World War II,” Trump responded.
“You do know that they tried to kill Hitler three times and almost pulled it off?” Kelly said.
“No, no, no, they were totally loyal to him,” Trump replied, rejecting documented history. Rather, he claimed the generals of the Third Reich were totally subservient to Hitler, according to the report, and that was how he wanted the US military chiefs to behave to their leader.
Trump also angered the military leaders by telling them he didn’t want any injured veterans taking part in the parade, as had been the case in Paris, noting that some had lost limbs or were in wheelchairs.
“I don’t want them,” Trump reportedly said. “It doesn’t look good for me.”
“Those are the heroes,” Kelly told Trump. “In our society, there’s only one group of people who are more heroic than they are — and they are buried over in Arlington.”
Kelly’s own son, who was killed while serving as an officer in Afghanistan, is buried in Arlington, though according to the report he did not point that out to Trump.
The report also mentioned an incident involving Israel.
US Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley and his fellow generals were concerned that the president would spark a crisis with Iran after losing the elections to Joe Biden as an attempt to divert the public’s focus and orchestrate a power grab at home.
Believing that then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was one of the main players pushing Trump to make such a move against Iran before Biden’s inauguration, Milley met with the Israeli leader in Jerusalem and urged him to stop his efforts.
“If you do this, you’re gonna have a fucking war,” Milley warned Netanyahu.
In a statement to the New Yorker about the article, Trump said: “These were very untalented people and once I realized it, I did not rely on them, I relied on the real generals and admirals within the system.”
The report was drawn from the forthcoming book, “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021,” which is coauthored by New Yorker staff writer Susan Glasser and Peter Baker, the White House correspondent for The New York Times. The book is to be released on August 15.
Trump eventually fired Kelly at the end of 2018. The Washington military parade was held in 2019.
It would not be the only time that Trump reportedly admired Hitler.
In 2018, the president visited Europe to participate in celebrations marking the end of World War I.
At one point, as chief of staff Kelly explained the progression of events from the first to second world wars, Trump told him: “Well, Hitler did a lot of good things.”
When Kelly pushed back, the president insisted that under the Nazi dictator, Germany made economic advances in the 1930s.
That incident was mentioned in the 2021 book “Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost” by Michael Bender of the Wall Street Journal. According to the 2021 book, Kelly was “stunned” by the remark.
A spokesperson for Trump denied the incident, telling media in 2021 that “this is totally false. President Trump never said this. It is made up fake news, probably by a general who was incompetent and was fired.”