Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended his actions on a pair of reported phone calls with Chinese military leaders in the final weeks of President Donald Trump’s term. A recently published book, “Peril” by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, claimed Milley had assured his Chinese counterparts that he would provide forwarning if Trump sought to launch an attack.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Milley said his calls were consistent with his leadership responsibilities and eight people sat in on his first, October 30, call with Chinese counterparts. Milley said 11 other people were on a second, January 8, call with Chinese counterparts.
Milley said he reached out to his Chinese counterparts in response to “concerning intelligence” that China feared an attack from the U.S., rather than in response to any personal concerns he had that President Donald Trump would launch an attack.
“I know, I am certain, that President Trump did not intend to attack the Chinese and it was my directed responsibility to convey presidential orders and intent,” Milley said. “My task at that time was to de-escalate. My message again was consistent: Stay calm, steady, and de-escalate. We are not going to attack you.”
Milley went on to say, “At Secretary of Defense [Mark] Esper’s direction, I made a call to General Li [Zuocheng] on 30 October. Eight people sat in that call with me and I read out the call within 30 minutes of the call ending.”
Milley said his second call with Chinese military officials, which took place on January 8, was scheduled on December 31. Milley said 11 people attended his January 8 call and readouts of the call “were distributed to the interagency that same day.”
Milley also said the October 30 and January 8 call were coordinated with the office staffs for then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper and then-acting-Defense Secretary Christopher Miller.
Miller has previously said “I did not and would not ever authorize such conduct” as described in the book “Peril.” Miller also said if the “histrionic outbursts and unsanctioned, anti-Constitutional involvement in foreign policy prove true, [Milley] must resign immediately or be fired by the Secretary of Defense to guarantee the sanctity of the officer corps.”
In his testimony, Milley said he also informed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about his calls.
In one of his early reactions to the allegations laid out in the book “Peril,” Pompeo told Fox & Friends, “I’m always skeptical about Bob Woodward. We will begin there. But if he did that. If General Milley called and told the Chinese Communist Party I promise you I will give you a holler before we attack, this is something that is deeply inconsistent with his responsibility. He is not even in the chain of command, it would have been a tragic, horrible thing to do.”