Faced with calls to resign or an investigation, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley on Friday defended two phone calls he allegedly made in secret to his Chinese Communist Party counterpart.
The general reached out to Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army several days before the November 2020 election and two days after the Capitol breach on Jan. 6 to reassure the Chinese army that an attack isn’t incoming, according to excerpts of a book that was published this week.
Milley, the top U.S. general, described the two phone calls as “routine” and claimed they were done “to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case in order to ensure strategic stability,” reported The Associated Press. When speaking to the news agency, he only offered a brief comment about his two calls with Li and said he will speak about his calls in front of Congress later this month when both he and Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin are scheduled to testify.
“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 told AP. “I’ll go into any level of detail Congress wants to go into in a couple of weeks.”
But he added that the calls were “perfectly within the duties and responsibilities” of his role.
According to the book, written by journalist Bob Woodward and Washington Post reporter Robert Costa, Milley allegedly told Li that “if we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.” The call raised questions about whether he was undermining then-President Donald Trump’s authority.
Milley made those calls, the book has alleged, because he was fearful of Trump would carry out military action during the waning days of his presidency. Trump didn’t, and former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller told Fox News that Milley’s alleged calls were not authorized by him before saying that the general should resign from his post.
Trump said that if the reports about Milley’s calls are accurate, the general should be charged with treason against the United States. The former president also sharply criticized him for the chaotic and rushed military withdrawal from Afghanistan that left billions of dollars in military equipment and hardware to be captured by the Taliban.
During a news conference earlier in the week, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby repeatedly declined to answer specific questions about phone calls between Li and Milley, characterizing such conversations between foreign counterparts as routine. White House press secretary Jen Psaki also said that President Joe Biden has the “complete confidence” in Milley’s leadership, suggesting the administration won’t seek his ouster in the near future.
A spokesperson for Milley’s office, Col. Dave Butler, also defended the calls as routine and said Milley often communicates with generals in Russia and China.
“These conversations remain vital to improving mutual understanding of U.S. national security interests, reducing tensions, providing clarity and avoiding unintended consequences or conflict,” Butler said in a statement earlier this week.
The Epoch Times has contacted the Defense Department for comment.