- Christopher Miller became acting Secretary of Defense, just as Trump considered attacking Iran.
- Miller purposefully took on the role of “fucking maniac” to prevent Trump from keeping up, according to a new book.
- Miller said his main goal was “no military coup, no major war and no troops in the streets.”
Christopher Miller, who became acting Secretary of Defense after the firing of Mark Esper, tried to deter former President Donald Trump from attacking Iran by behaving like a “fucking maniac” and leading Trump through how devastating such an attack would be.
That is according to ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl’s upcoming book, “Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show,” a copy of which was acquired by Insider prior to its release Tuesday.
According to Karl, Miller got into the job with the modest goals of “no military coup, no major war and no troops in the streets,” echoing concerns that Esper also had before his firing.
Miller’s containment strategy unfolded in an Oval Office meeting with former President Nov. 12 along with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
A new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency had shown that Iran had dramatically increased its stockpile of enriched uranium and was able to produce enough weapon-grade uranium for 2 bombs in just 6 months, and Trump and his team discussed how to respond.
At one point, according to Karl’s book, Trump turned to Miller and asked if the Iranian nuclear program could be taken out with strikes.
“Yes, Mr. President,” Miller replied. “We can definitely do that.”
Miller went on to detail a plan involving more than 100 manned air force and naval aircraft flying into Iran, warning Trump that the Islamic Republic has sophisticated air defense systems.
“We’re probably going to lose some planes,” he said. “It’s just the nature of business. You’ll probably see some three, four or six planes being shot down. I just want to make sure you’m familiar with that.”
The couple went into more detail about how such an attack would take place, including the logistics of refueling and starting points.
“Boeing? Does Boeing handle air-to-air refueling?” asked Trump at one point. “They can ‘t build shit anymore.”
The episode was apparently alarming to Pompeo – who was otherwise one of the biggest Iran hawks in the Trump administration – and led him to dismiss Miller during the meeting, declaring that such an attack would be a mistake that could potentially lead to a major war in the region. According to the book, Pompeo later called Justice Minister Bill Barr to express his concerns to the Pentagon’s new leadership, as he feared they could drive Trump to start a war with Iran.
But for Miller, it was all a huge exercise in reverse psychology. He did not want to attack Iran, and he told Karl that if Trump could see exactly what it would all take, he would not go for it.
“I wanted to play the damn maniac,” Miller told Karl. “And everyone else would say, ‘Okay, he’s the new guy. He’s insane. Do not listen to him. “I thought, ‘Hey, if we’re gonna do this shit, let’s do it.
It was a contrast to how other former Trump aides handled the former president, including Miller’s predecessor, who was nicknamed “Yesper” for being overly reverent of the commander-in-chief.
“I’ve often found out with provocative people, if you get more provocative than them, then they have to knock it down,” Miller told Karl. “They say, ‘Yeah, I was fucking crazy,’ but that guy’s some shit.”
Pompeo did not respond to a request for comment.
The United States and Iran have had a controversial dynamic for decades, but tensions reached historic heights in the Trump era. This stemmed largely from Trump’s controversial decision to pull the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal.
The pact, orchestrated by the Obama administration, was designed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon in return for easing economic sanctions.
After scrapping the deal, Trump pursued a failed “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran – by imposing crippling economic sanctions aimed at forcing it to negotiate a more stringent version of the 2015 pact. This approach backfired and resulted primarily in increasingly aggressive behavior from Iran, which catalyzed a series of skirmishes in the Persian Gulf region.
Trump expressed fears of a new war in the Middle East in January 2020 when he ordered a drone strike that killed Iran’s supreme general, Qassem Soleimani. Iran responded with a missile attack that wounded dozens of U.S. troops in Iraq. It also effectively abandoned the 2015 agreement right after the Soleimani strike.
Both sides eventually stepped away from a broader conflict. That said, tensions between the two countries remain high in the Biden era, and Iran-backed militias continue to target US troops with attacks in Iraq and Syria.