On Friday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said the secret calls he made to China’s top general during the final months of former President Donald Trump’s administration were “perfectly within the duties and responsibilities” of his job.
During secret phone calls in October 2020 and January 2021, Milley had promised Chinese Gen. Li Zuocheng that he would warn the communist nation of an impending attack from the United States, according to a forthcoming book by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
Milley told The Associated Press that calls like the one to Gen. Li are “routine” and were executed “to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case in order to ensure strategic stability.”
While Milley provided the AP with only a brief defense of the phone calls, he said more in-depth discussions would be held in front of Congress when he testifies later this month.
“I think it’s best that I reserve my comments on the record until I do that in front of the lawmakers who have the lawful responsibility to oversee the U.S. military,” Milley said. “I’ll go into any level of detail Congress wants to go into in a couple of weeks.”
According to excerpts first revealed Tuesday from the forthcoming book entitled “Peril,” as reported by the Washington Post, the first phone call took place on Oct. 30, 2020, just four days before the presidential election between then-President Donald Trump and Joe Biden. The second call took place on Jan. 8, 2021, two days after the storming of the United States Capitol.
“General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay,” Milley told the People’s Liberation Army general. “We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.”
“General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time,” Milley added. “It’s not going to be a surprise.”
After a number of lawmakers called for Milley to resign or be fired in the wake of the reports, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday that “the president has complete confidence in [Milley’s] leadership, his patriotism, and his fidelity to our Constitution.”
President Biden later told reporters that he has “great confidence in Gen. Milley.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Trump wrote in a statement that “dumbass” Milley should be “tried for treason” if the reports are true, but asserted that it was “fake news.”
Trump said the “good news is that the story is Fake News” created by “weak and ineffective” Gen. Milley and “two authors who I refused to give an interview to because they write fiction, not fact.”