Former President Donald Trump has insisted he would not have used the military to illegally seize control of the government after his election loss.
But he also suggested that if he had tried to carry out a coup, it would not have been with his top military adviser.
In a lengthy statement on Thursday, Mr Trump responded to revelations in a new book detailing fears from General Mark Milley that the outgoing president would stage a coup during his final weeks in office.
Mr Trump said he was “not into coups” and “never threatened, or spoke about, to anyone, a coup of our Government”. At the same time, he said that “if I was going to do a coup, one of the last people I would want to do it with is” Gen Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The mere mention of a coup was a stunning remark from a former president, especially one who left office under the cloud of a violent insurrection he helped incite at the US Capitol in January in an effort to impede the peaceful transfer of power to Democrat Joe Biden.
Since then, the FBI has warned of a rapidly growing threat of homegrown violent extremism.
Despite such concerns, Mr Trump is maintaining his grip on the Republican Party. He was meeting on Thursday with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and has stepped up his public schedule, holding a series of rallies for his supporters across the country in which he continues to spread the lie that last year’s election was stolen from him.
His comment about a coup was in response to new reporting from the book I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year, by Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker. The book reports Gen Milley was shaken by Mr Trump’s refusal to concede in the weeks after the election.
According to early excerpts published by CNN and the Post on Wednesday ahead of its release, Gen Milley was so concerned that Mr Trump or his allies might try to use the military to remain in power that he and other top officials considered how they might block him — even hatching a plan to resign, one by one.
Gen Milley also reportedly compared Mr Trump’s rhetoric to Adolf Hitler’s during his rise to power.
“This is a Reichstag moment,” Gen Milley reportedly told aides. “The gospel of the Fuhrer.”
Gen Milley’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Gen Milley has previously spoken out against drawing the military into election politics, especially after coming under fire for joining Mr Trump on a walk through Lafayette Square for a photo op at a church after the square had been violently cleared of protesters.
Mr Trump, in the statement, mocked Gen Milley’s response to that moment, saying it helped him realise his top military adviser was “certainly not the type of person I would be talking ‘coup’ with”.
The book is one of a long list being released in the coming weeks examining the chaotic final days of the Trump administration, the January 6 insurrection, and the outgoing president’s refusal to accept the election’s outcome.
Mr Trump sat for hours of interviews with many of the authors, but has issued a flurry of statements in recent days disputing their reporting and criticising former staff for participating.