Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, finally address reports that he made secret phone calls to his counterpart in China to advise the Chinese generals that Milley would warn them if then-President Donald Trump was planning an attack.
In remarks to reporters in Europe, Milley claimed that calls like the one reported in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s new book, “Peril” are “routine” and frequently done “to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case in order to ensure strategic stability.”
Earlier this week, Milley offered a brief response to reports that he both called his Chinese counterpart to tell him he would warn the Chinese military of any possible attacks, and that he circumvented the chain of command to insert himself in the line of individuals notified of a pending nuclear strike.
“The book says Milley told Li that he would warn Li in the event of an attack,” according to Fox News.
Milley is scheduled to testify under oath before Congress on September 28th, and suggested he would be open to questioning on the matter. That questioning, though, will be largely focused on his role in coordinating the United States’ swift departure from Afghanistan and his efforts to advise the Biden administration on whether to abide by a departure timeline set by the Trump adminstration.
“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 in a statement through a spokesperson. “I’ll go into any level of detail Congress wants to go into in a couple of weeks.”
“These are routine calls in order to discuss issues of the day, to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case, in order to ensure strategic stability,” Milley added in a conversation with reporters on Friday, per the Wall Street Journal. “And these are perfectly within the duties and responsibilities of the chairman.”
Milley reiterated that he would be open to answering Congress’ questions on the matter.
“I will go into any level of detail Congress wants to go into,” he said.
“President Biden is standing by Gen. Milley, whose term runs to October 2023, as are a number of top Democrats and former officials like John Bolton, who was one of Mr. Trump’s national-security advisers,” the WSJ noted, though Bolton has spoken out, more recently, against Trump.
Milley did not address a separate report that indicated he convened “a secret meeting after January 6, in which the Joint Chiefs chairman instructed top military officers to consult him before proceeding with any order to take military action, including launching nuclear weapons.”
Accounts of that meeting differ. Milley is reported to have spoken with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) about Trump’s nuclear capabilities, but it is not clear whether Milley then refamiliarized himself and his staff with the chain of command procedures ahead of a nuclear strike, or whether, as has been reported, Milley inserted himself into that chain of command.