White House defends General Mark Milley after he confirms phoning China behind Trump’s back


President Joe Biden said he has ‘great confidence’ in Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley after the embattled military man admitted on Wednesday he spoke to his Chinese counterpart in coordination with defense officials – but the acting Pentagon chief at the time said he ‘did not’ authorize the calls.

Milley was responding to a bombshell report that claims he phoned his counterpart there behind Trump’s back over concerns the ex-president would take rogue action to stay in office.

‘I have great confidence in General Milley,’ Biden said to reporters on Wednesday afternoon. 

He was asked about whether the general did the ‘right thing’ after a meeting with business leaders and CEOs to discuss the US COVID-19 response. 

But former Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, who would have led the Pentagon when Milley made the January call, said he ‘did not and would not ever authorize’ the general to have the ‘secret’ calls.

Miller called on Milley to resign. 

‘The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the highest-ranking military officer whose sole role is providing military-specific advice to the president, and by law is prohibited from exercising executive authority to command forces,’ Miller told Fox News

President Biden reaffirmed his support for General Milley on Wednesday after an event with business leaders discussing COVID strategy

Mark Milley’s statement on calls with China in full 

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs regularly communicates with Chiefs of Defense across the world, including with China and Russia

These conversations remain vital to improving mutual understanding of U.S. national security interests, reducing tensions, providing clarity and avoiding unintended consequences or conflict. 

His calls with the Chinese and others in October and January were in keeping with these duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability. 

All calls from the Chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency.

Also in keeping with his responsibilities as senior military advisor to the President and Secretary of Defense, General Milley frequently conducts meetings with uniformed leaders across the Services to ensure all leaders are aware of current issues.

The meeting regarding nuclear weapons protocols was to remind uniformed leaders in the Pentagon of the long-established and robust procedures in light of media reporting on the subject.

General Milley continues to act and advise within his authority in the lawful tradition of civilian control of the military and his oath to the Constitution.

Miller pointed out that the chain of command goes from the president to Defense chief, not through Milley’s position. 

His former chief of staff Kash Patel told Fox, ‘The law governing the Joint Chiefs of Staff specifically forbids the chairman from exercising any operational command authority.’  

The outlet also reported the call placed in October was coordinated with then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who was fired shortly after the election.  

But current Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is standing behind Milley.

‘He has full trust and confidence in Milley and the job that he’s doing,’ Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at a briefing on Wednesday. 

Kirby declined to comment on reports that the general told his Chinese counterpart that he would give China a ‘heads up’ if Trump decided to strike.

‘I’m not going to speak to unconfirmed reports form a book that we haven’t looked at and read yet, and certainly not to a conversation that took place before the administration took office,’ he said.

But he added that ‘chairmen across multiple administrations’ routinely have ‘direct channel communications with their counterparts in other countries.’ 

‘It is particularly important to have those communications with a nation-state with which there are real and significant tensions to try and reduce those, clear things up, make sure you reduce the risk of miscalculation.

I think you saw in the statement the chairman’s office put out earlier today, that was exactly what was behind the context for this particular call,’ he said.

Kirby said the calls took place during ‘a difficult time in our nation’s history.’

The spokesman was vague when he was pressed on whether it was normal for a Joint Chiefs chairman to not consult the president before contacting a foreign counterpart. 

One reporter asked if Milley should be court-martialed – prompting Kirby to exclaim ‘Oh my goodness.’ 

‘I can’t speak to processes before this administration took office – I just can’t,’ an exasperated Kirby said.

But he admitted that it was ‘typical’ for conversations with a country like China would be a ‘fully coordinated conversation.’  

Retired General Jack Keane said on Fox that he takes Milley at his word and called his actions ‘responsible.’ 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reaffirmed the administration’s support for Milley, lauding him as a ‘patriot.’ 

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby shrugged when he was asked to confirm whether it was White House policy 'that there was no senior government engagement with China' at the time Milley made the call

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby shrugged when he was asked to confirm whether it was White House policy ‘that there was no senior government engagement with China’ at the time Milley made the call

‘The president knows General Milley,’ Psaki said at her daily news briefing on Wednesday. ‘They have worked side by side through a range of international events.’

‘The president has complete confidence in his leadership, his patriotism and his fidelity to our Constitution.’ 

She noted that Milley held his position heading the Joint Chiefs for eight months of Biden’s presidency.

Psaki then went on to provide ‘context’ to the period in which Milley made the calls.

‘The outgoing president of the United States, during this time, fomented unrest, leading to an insurrection and an attack on our nation’s Capitol on January 6th.’

She called it ‘one of the darkest days in our nation’s history.’

‘I can’t speak to the former president’s experience with him or the former president’s views of him. But this president – this current president, who follows the Constitution, who’s not fomenting an insurrection, who follows the rule of law, has complete confidence in Chairman Milley and him continuing to serve in his role,’ Psaki said.

Psaki spoke in defense of Milley at her daily White House news briefing

Psaki spoke in defense of Milley at her daily White House news briefing

Biden 'has worked side by side with Chairman Milley for almost eight months, as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs,' Psaki said at the briefing

Biden ‘has worked side by side with Chairman Milley for almost eight months, as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs,’ Psaki said at the briefing

She also took a swipe at Republican lawmakers. 

‘I don’t think the president is looking for the guidance of members of Congress who stood by while the president of the United States and the leader of their party fomented an insurrection and many of them are silent.’

Asked whether Biden believes Milley should testify, Psaki deferred to the Pentagon. 

The Biden official was also pressed on Trump’s Tuesday accusation that Milley committed ‘treason.’

‘I don’t think I have any further response to the former president, other than to reiterate the context of this moment in time, what everybody’s talking about here,’ Psaki answered.

She was also questioned on whether there are concerns over the US military’s chain of command, but used the moment to reaffirm Biden’s support for Milley using the same points.

‘Again, I think why it was important for me to convey what I did, is that the president has worked side by side with Chairman Milley for almost eight months, as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. 

‘His experience with him has been that he is a patriot, he is somebody who has fidelity to the Constitution, and he is confident in his leadership and the role he has played in his experience with him.’

She added that she couldn’t ‘speak to anonymous, unconfirmed reports about prior conversations during the last administration.’   

Former Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, who oversaw the Pentagon at the time of the second phone call, said he would have never authorized it

Former Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, who oversaw the Pentagon at the time of the second phone call, said he would have never authorized it

Milley maintains in the statement that the calls were ‘vital’ to ‘avoiding unintended consequences,’ but seemed to dispute that they were done in secret.

Multiple journalists posted the lengthy statement on Twitter, reportedly issued by Milley’s spokesperson Colonel Dave Butler.

‘The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs regularly communicates with Chiefs of Defense across the world, including with China and Russia,’ the statement began.

‘These conversations remain vital to improving mutual understanding of U.S. national security interests, reducing tensions, providing clarity and avoiding unintended consequences or conflict.

‘His calls with the Chinese and others in October and January were in keeping with these duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability.’ 

In his statement Milley claimed that the phone calls were done in coordination with other Pentagon officials. 

‘All calls from the Chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency.

‘Also in keeping with his responsibilities as senior military advisor to the President and Secretary of Defense, General Milley frequently conducts meetings with uniformed leaders across the Services to ensure all leaders are aware of current issues.

‘The meeting regarding nuclear weapons protocols was to remind uniformed leaders in the Pentagon of the long-established and robust procedures in light of media reporting on the subject.’ 

‘General Milley continues to act and advise within his authority in the lawful tradition of civilian control of the military and his oath to the Constitution.’ 

But a number of right-wing figures are joining Trump in denouncing Milley as a ‘traitor’

‘If the allegations are true, Gen Milley should go down in history as a traitor to the American people,’ Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs wrote on Twitter Wednesday. 

Senator Marco Rubio recorded a video message following the release of Milley’s statement. 

‘What I was hoping we would have today is a denial – that this is not true, this is all made up,’ the Florida Republican said.  

The allegations that Milley broke the chain of command to make the ‘secret calls’ are part of ‘Peril,’ a book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

The account is set to hit shelves on September 21.

Trump accused Milley of being a 'traitor' after the allegations in the new book surfaced

Trump accused Milley of being a ‘traitor’ after the allegations in the new book surfaced

Milley made secret calls to his counterpart in Beijing while Trump was president, a new book alledges

Milley made secret calls to his counterpart in Beijing while Trump was president, a new book alledges

It claims Milley made secret calls to his counterpart in Beijing while Trump was president.

In it, the Washington Post journalists allege that he went behind Trump‘s back to promise China to warn them if the U.S. planned to attack.   

Milley reportedly sought to assure General Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army in China that the U.S. was not about to launch strikes in a pair of phone calls.

In one call he said he would use backchannels to alert his counterpart if an attack were imminent.

The details triggered a wave of condemnation from Republicans who accused Milley of treason.

Alexander Vindman called on Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley to resign if the claims are true. 

‘If this is true GEN Milley must resign,’ the retired lieutenant colonel tweeted on Tuesday along with an article about new book ‘Peril’ which claims Milley was fearful Trump might spark war with China in the wake of his November election defeat to Joe Biden.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman is demanding Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff Mark Milley resign if he did go behind President Trump's back to speak to China

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman is demanding Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff Mark Milley resign if he did go behind President Trump’s back to speak to China

‘He usurped civilian authority, broke Chain of Command, and violated the sacrosanct principle of civilian control over the military. It’s an extremely dangerous precedent,’ Vindman, the star witness in the first impeachment of President Trump, tweeted. ‘You can’t simply walk away from that.’ 

Many are claiming Milley was wrong to circumvent the president, and are calling on Milley to step down from as top military officer.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Buzz Patterson, an aide during Bill Clinton’s administration who protected the ‘nuclear football,’ said it was not Milley’s job to make decisions in a civilian-controlled military.

‘As a former carrier of the nuclear football, this is simply unconscionable,’ Patterson tweeted.

‘The military doesn’t get to make this call in a civilian controlled system. Milley needs to resign immediately.’

In a second tweet he wrote: I’m outraged and every veteran and active duty member should be too! Each and every one of us were educated and drilled to always respect the chain. The CJCS violated that and usurped the authority of the commander in chief for political purposes. He jeopardized our security.’ 

Retired Marine Colonel John Mee told DailyMail.com: ‘If the reports are true, it’s very disturbing. That completely flies in the face of civilian control of the military.’ 

Mee, who worked for the Joint Staff as a division chief of NATO’s policy division, continued: ‘I think that would be unprecedented, to warn [secretly] of a pending attack.’  

Retired Colonel Rob Maness tweeted: ‘If every veteran serving in the US Congress isn’t calling Milley out and demanding his resignation and court martial, they deserve a primary opponent.’

He also responded to Vindman’s tweet in a separate post where he said: ‘Resignation is not enough.

‘These actions demand a public court martial proceeding.’ 

Senator Marco Rubio wrote a letter to President Biden demanding that he fire Milley ‘immediately’ for working to ‘actively undermine’ Trump.

The book's revelations triggered a wave of concern that Milley had violated the chain of command, endangering national security and breaking norms of civilian control of the military

The book’s revelations triggered a wave of concern that Milley had violated the chain of command, endangering national security and breaking norms of civilian control of the military

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Buzz Patterson, an aide during Bill Clinton's administration who protected the 'nuclear football,' said it was not Milley's job to make decisions in a civilian-controlled military

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Buzz Patterson, an aide during Bill Clinton’s administration who protected the ‘nuclear football,’ said it was not Milley’s job to make decisions in a civilian-controlled military

Former Navy Lieutenant Adam Laxalt, who served as Attorney General of Nevada, said Milley's actions should be considered 'treason'

Former Navy Lieutenant Adam Laxalt, who served as Attorney General of Nevada, said Milley’s actions should be considered ‘treason’

‘[Milley] worked to actively undermine the sitting Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces and contemplated a treasonous leak of classified information to the Chinese Communist Party in advance of a potential armed conflict with the People’s Republic of China (PRC),’ he wrote in the letter.

‘These actions by General Milley demonstrate a clear lack of sound judgement, and I urge you to dismiss him immediately.’

He added: ‘General Milley has attempted to rationalize his reckless behavior by arguing that what he perceived as the military’s judgement was more stable than its civilian commander. You must immediately dismiss General Milley. America’s national security and ability to lead in the world are at stake.’

Republican Louisiana Senator John Kennedy said Milley ‘should resign’ if he negotiated with his Chinese counterpart and undermined Trump.

He told Fox Primetime host Lawrence Jones: ‘You give me about 15 minutes with Gen. Milley under oath, in front of a committee of the United States Senate, and I will get to the truth.’

‘If the truth is as alleged then, yes, he should resign.’ 

On the other hand, former Navy senior chief petty officer and intelligence expert Malcolm Nance praised Milley for ‘defending the Constitution’ in bypassing the president to speak and make promises to a foreign adversary.

‘My Take: #GeneralMilley is a true Patriot who defended the Constitution at its moment of greatest need,’ Nance tweeted. ‘He took steps to ensure no UNLAWFUL orders would be followed which could lead to national catastrophe by a mad man. He is a #Hero’.

Republicans were furious over reports of Milley circumventing Trump to promise China he would warn them of any impending U.S. attack

Republicans were furious over reports of Milley circumventing Trump to promise China he would warn them of any impending U.S. attack

Retired Colonel Rob Maness aid 'resignation is not enough' and demanded a 'public court martial proceeding'

Retired Colonel Rob Maness aid ‘resignation is not enough’ and demanded a ‘public court martial proceeding’ 

Milley phoned his Chinese counterpart to give reassurances two days after the January 6 Capitol riot and cautioned US military leaders amid fears Trump might attack to keep power. Trump accused him of treason

Milley phoned his Chinese counterpart to give reassurances two days after the January 6 Capitol riot and cautioned US military leaders amid fears Trump might attack to keep power. Trump accused him of treason

Fox News host Tucker Carlson slammed Milley as ‘treasonous’.

‘How do you describe this? ‘Deep state’ isn’t strong enough. It’s treason. It’s a crime,’ he said.

‘To those who say they’re worried about authoritarianism coming in America, well, it’s here,’ Carlson said. ‘That’s what this is. Authoritarian government. Government by unelected, unaccountable leaders willing to use violence to preserve their rule.’

An angry Trump said Milley was ‘making it up’ that he was concerned about a China attack in an attempt to distract from his own role in the bungled Afghanistan withdrawal.

‘I think he’s trying to just get out of his incompetent withdrawal out of Afghanistan, the worst, the dumbest thing that anybody’s seen,’ Trump said. ‘Probably the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to our country.’

The former president repeated his frequent condemnation of the Biden administration’s handling of Afghanistan before returning the allegations in the new book, excerpts of which were published by CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post .

Trump said: ‘Milley made it up. He made this story about me attacking China.’

‘Think of it, I’m going to attack China. What’s the reason exactly, other than that they screw a certain trade?’ he continued. ‘You don’t attack them for that.’

On the other hand, former Navy senior chief petty officer and intelligence expert Malcolm Nance praised Milley for 'defending the Constitution' in bypassing the president to speak and make promises to a foreign adversary

On the other hand, former Navy senior chief petty officer and intelligence expert Malcolm Nance praised Milley for ‘defending the Constitution’ in bypassing the president to speak and make promises to a foreign adversary

He described Milley’s alleged behavior as ‘a disgrace.’

‘He was going to inform them when that will take place so they could be prepared,’ Trump said. ‘That is a treasonous statement and I cannot tell you how many people called up about it.’

Trump named Milley to the top military post in 2018, where he will serve until 2022.

Their relationship, however, quickly soured and details of their clashes have seeped into public view with publication of several accounts of the final days of the Trump presidency.

The upcoming book also detailed that Ivanka Trump told her father three times to stop pedaling election fraud claims as he watched the Capitol riot unfold on TV on January 6. 

‘Let this thing go,’ Donald Trump’s eldest daughter and then-senior adviser said at the time. ‘Let it go.’ 

The book ‘Peril’ also detailed that retired General Keith Kellogg, who was serving as Vice President Mike Pence‘s national security adviser at the time, told Trump he should send a ‘tweet’ to help calm the crowd at the Capitol on January 6.

‘You really should do a tweet,’ Kellogg said, according to the book, written by journalist and author Bob Woodward and veteran Washington Post reporter Robert Costa.

‘You need to get a tweet out real quick, help control the crowd up there,’ he said as Trump watched the attack happening on television. ‘This is out of control. They’re not going to be able to control this. Sir, they’re not prepared for it. Once a mob starts turning like that, you’ve lost it.’

Ivanka Trump, pictured January 4, 2021 with Donald Trump, told her father on January 6 that he should 'let this thing go' as they watched the Capitol riot unfold, according to a new book

Ivanka Trump, pictured January 4, 2021 with Donald Trump, told her father on January 6 that he should ‘let this thing go’ as they watched the Capitol riot unfold, according to a new book

The book also detailed that retired General Keith Kellogg told Trump he should send a 'tweet' to help calm the crowd at the Capitol on January 6

The book also detailed that retired General Keith Kellogg told Trump he should send a ‘tweet’ to help calm the crowd at the Capitol on January 6

'Peril,' by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa will be released by Simon & Schuster on September 21

‘Peril,’ by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa will be released by Simon & Schuster on September 21

The then-president responded to Kellogg with a simple, ‘Yeah’ and then, the book details, ‘Trump blinked and kept watching television.’

The retired general, according to the book, was with Trump on January 6 while he watched the chaos unfold from the White House.

The new book also revealed a bombshell that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, called his Chinese counterpart twice last year over concerns President Trump was ready to go to war.

Trump responded on Tuesday by saying the United States’ top military officer was guilty of treason if he went behind his back with promises to warn China of an impending attack. 

‘If it is actually true – which is hard to believe that he would have called China, and done these things and was willing to advise them of an attack or in advance of an attack – that’s treason,’ Trump told Sean Spicer during an interview on Newsmax TV.

The latest account details how Milley took a series of extraordinary actions after the Jan. 6th Capitol riot because he was concerned an ‘unstable’ President Trump might undertake military action in a desperate bid to stay in office. 

Milley met top military officials in the Pentagon two days after the MAGA riot and told them to keep him in the process for all military actions, including the use of nuclear weapons. 

‘If you get calls, no matter who they’re from, there’s a process here, there’s a procedure. No matter what you are told, you do the procedure. You do the process. And I’m part of that procedure,’ he told reportedly told them. 

He feared Trump was suffering ‘serious mental decline,’ according to the book, which relies on Woodward’s well-established methods of relying on ‘deep background’ information provided sources, some of them anonymously, as well as documents and interviews, to attempt to reconstruct events and conversations..  

‘The strict procedures are explicitly designed to avoid inadvertent mistakes or accident or nefarious, unintentional, illegal, immoral, unethical launching of the world’s most dangerous weapons,’ he continued.

‘Got it?’ Milley asked his team members. ‘Yes, sir,’ they replied, in an exchange Milley considered ‘an oath.’ 

Milley also told CIA Director Gina Haspel: ‘Aggressively watch everything, 360.’  

Just as stunning were Milley’s reported actions that same date to the head of China’s powerful military, to reassure his counterpart that the US was not going to attack China and set off a clash with a major nuclear power. His message, despite his own doubts about Trump’s mental state, was that ‘everything’s fine.’

‘Things may look unsteady,’ Milley told Gen. Li. ‘But that’s the nature of democracy, General Li. We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.’ 

US intelligence reportedly concluded the government of Chinese President Xi Jinping was concerned about a potential US attack after the Jan. 6 riot

US intelligence reportedly concluded the government of Chinese President Xi Jinping was concerned about a potential US attack after the Jan. 6 riot

Milley called China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) General Li Zuocheng to provide reassurances over his alleged concerns Trump might take military action in a desperate move to retain power after his election loss

Milley called China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Li Zuocheng to provide reassurances over his alleged concerns Trump might take military action in a desperate move to retain power after his election loss

It was Milley’s second call to his counterpart in the final months of the Trump administration. US intelligence concluded the Chinese believed Trump might launch a military strike in order create a basis to stay in power, after an election Trump claimed was fraudulent, despite a series of court and procedural defeats that had him running out of options. 

Milley had earlier called Li in October amid ongoing tensions over the South China Straight, and Trump’s rhetoric targeting China. 

Milley feared Trump might seek to use such an attack to achieve a Reichstag fire type incident, where he would cite the dangerous new situation to cling to power.  Milley afterward concluded Li was ‘unusually rattled.’

According to the book, Milley even promised his counterpart there would be no surprises. They had reportedly established relations through a backchannel.

‘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. It’s not going to be a surprise,’ Milley reportedly told him. 

The book quotes Milley expressing concerns Trump might launch a strike that could lead to war. Trump campaigned repeatedly ending Middle East wars he called a waste, and negotiated a departure date with the Taliban in Afghanistan before leaving office.

‘I continually reminded him, depending on where and what you strike, you could find yourself at war,’ the book quotes Milley as saying of Trump.

A president can only initiate a nuclear strike through a complex procedure that involves multiple layers of officials, coordinated through the National Military Command Center. 

Milley also spoke to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had publicly raised her own fears about Trump’s access to nuclear weapons immediately after the riot, which came on a day Congress met to count the electoral votes to make Joe Biden president. 

‘This is bad, but who knows what he might do?’ Pelosi said. ‘He’s crazy. You know he’s crazy. He’s been crazy for a long time. So don’t say you don’t know what his state of mind is.’

The authors cite a transcript of the call. 

Milley responded, according to the book: ‘ Madam Speaker. I agree with you on everything.’

Pelosi told him: ‘What I’m saying to you is that if they couldn’t even stop him from an assault on the Capitol, who even knows what else he may do? And is there anybody in charge at the White House who was doing anything but kissing his fat butt all over this?’

‘You know he’s crazy. He’s been crazy for a long time,’ she told him.

Milley’s efforts to give himself the opportunity to potentially head off a strike or a war appears to have been triggered by his call with Pelosi. According to the transcript, she asked him ‘what precautions are available to prevent an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or from accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike?’

Milley then vouched for ‘a lot of checks in the system.’

Haspel had raised her own concerns after Trump refused to accept the results of the November election. ‘We are on the way to a right-wing coup. The whole thing is insanity. He is acting out like a six-year-old with a tantrum,’ she told him. 

‘This is a highly dangerous situation. We are going to lash out for his ego?’ she told Milley in a call. 

The maneuvering came at a time after Milley had first accompanied Trump during his infamous photo-op shortly before authorities cleared protesters from Lafayette Square during Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020. He then apologized for having participated in the event in uniform.  



Source link

Leave a Comment

x