Milley Speaks Publicly for the First Time Since China Call Controversy Erupted


Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley on Friday publicly defended for the first time calls he made to his Chinese counterpart in the final tumultuous months of Donald Trump’s presidency, calling them “perfectly within the duties and responsibilities” of his job.

Speaking to The Associated Press and another reporter traveling with him to Europe, Milley described such calls as “routine,” saying they were done “to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case in order to ensure strategic stability.”

“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 get into in a couple of weeks.”

The nation’s highest-ranking and most senior military officer is scheduled to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Sept. 28, along with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, on the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Milley has been the subject of controversy following the release earlier this week of excerpts from a new book, “Peril,” by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa that reveal Milley spoke with People’s Liberation Army Gen. Li Zuocheng on Oct. 30, 2020, and Jan. 8, 2021, and that former President Trump was not made aware the calls took place.

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Milley told Li during the first call — made on the eve of last year’s presidential election — that he would give China a warning in the event of a U.S. attack, according to Woodward and Costa.

The second call — coming just two days after the Capitol incursion in Washington, D.C., during congressional certification of Electoral College results — was meant to, according to the book, assuage Li’s fears of U.S. government instability.

News of the conversations sparked calls for Milley’s resignation from some Republicans who have accused the general of subverting civilian control of the military.

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At least three senators and nine members of the House of Representatives are calling on Milley to resign or be fired based on revelations in the book, New York Daily News reported.

Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida have been especially critical of Milley.

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Retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vidman, who testified against Trump during the former president’s first impeachment trial, has called for Milley to step down.

However, defense officials have since suggested Milley’s calls were not made in secret, in comments to Politico and Fox News reporter Jennifer Griffin.

A senior defense official told Politico the description of the first call is “grossly mischaracterized.”

Milley previously denied through his spokesman any claims his actions undermined civilian control of the military.

“Gen. 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,” Army Col. David Butler said in a Wednesday statement reported in the Military Times.

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