Army Gen. Mark Milley defends calls on the Chinese at the end of Trump’s presidency – The Denver Post
The top US military officer told Congress on Tuesday he knew former President Donald Trump was not planning to attack China and that his job was to reassure the Chinese about this in phone calls that angered some lawmakers.
Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered a staunch defense of two calls he made with his Chinese counterpart, saying he was responding to “a significant degree of intelligence” that China was concerned about a US attack.
I know, and I am sure, that President Trump did not intend to attack the Chinese. …and it was my responsibility given by the Secretary to convey this intent to the Chinese,” Milley said before the Senate Armed Services Committee. My job at the time was to stop the escalation. My message was consistent again: Stay calm, steady and de-escalate. We will not attack you.”
Milley was at the center of the controversy after reports that he made two calls to General Li Zucheng of the People’s Liberation Army to assure him that the United States would not suddenly go to war with or attack China. Details of the calls were first aired in excerpts from the recently released book “Danger” by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
While Tuesday’s hearing focused largely on the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the chaotic evacuation of Americans, Afghans and others from the country, a few senators condemned Milley for what they saw as inappropriate contacts with Lee.
In his most comprehensive comment to date on the matter, Milley said the calls on October 30 and January 8 were fully coordinated with the then defense secretaries as well as other US national security agencies. He said that such military contacts are necessary to prevent war between the great powers that possess nuclear weapons.
The calls came during Trump’s turbulent past months in office as he challenged the results of the 2020 election. The second call came two days after January 6, when a violent mob attacked the US Capitol in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s White House victory.
Milley said the October call was directed by then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and the second was at China’s request and in coordination with the office of then-acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller.
Asked if he had spoken with the book’s authors and whether his notes were “accurately represented,” Millie said he had spoken with Woodward and had not read the book but had seen press reports about it.
Senator Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, asked him to provide more answers as soon as he read the book. She and Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, wondered if Millie was participating in private presidential conversations with the authors.
Milley said he did not leak private conversations he had with Trump, and said he routinely talks with the media to provide information and transparency to the American people.
Milley also made a call he received from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi, he said, “called me to inquire about the president’s ability to launch nuclear weapons. I tried to assure her that a nuclear launch was governed by a very specific and well-thought-out process.”
He said he assured her that while the president had the sole authority to launch nuclear weapons, “he does not launch them alone.” As president, he said, he’s part of the launch decision process.
“There are processes, protocols and procedures in place, and I have assured her over and over again that there is no chance of an illegal, unauthorized or accidental release,” Millie said.
The book asserts that during the call, Milley agreed with Pelosi’s statement that Trump was experiencing post-election mental decline. During Tuesday’s hearing, Milley appeared to rule this out, saying “I am not qualified to determine the mental health of the President of the United States.”
After the call ended, he said, he had a short meeting with the staff to follow up on the process. He also said he informed Miller of the call at the time.
At no time did I attempt to alter or influence the process, usurp power or insert myself into the chain of command, but it is expected, I am required, to give my advice and ensure that the President is fully informed,” Milley said.
This story has been corrected to show that Chris Miller was the Acting Secretary of Defense and not a Secretary.