Members of the House Freedom Caucus are demanding that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin launch an investigation into claims that Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, contacted his Chinese counterpart at the end of the Trump administration to reassure him that Beijing would not be attacked by the lame-duck president.
They raised the concerns in a letter to Austin dated Thursday, writing that Milley “blatantly disregarded the concept of civilian control of the military, and gave aid and comfort to America’s principal adversary, the Chinese Communist Party.”
“To conspire with a communist, malfeasant, hostile, and genocidal government regarding our intentions — or lack thereof — with utter disregard to the implications of said ‘promise’ on our national security or our Service Members, is nothing short of craven (at best) and treasonous,” the members wrote.
According to “Peril,” a book written by the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Milley called Chinese Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army twice — once on Oct. 20, 2020, and again on Jan. 8, 2021 — to tell him that President Donald Trump would not attack.
In the phone call on Jan. 8, two days after a mob stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to overturn the election results, Milley reassured Li that “we are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.”
The Freedom Caucus in their letter, noting the claims in the book, said Milley then “allegedly (and fascinatingly) then called the Indo-Pacific Commander and instructed him to call off all military exercises in the South China Sea, following up by assembling senior officers and mandating that any order to launch a nuclear weapon must include Gen. Milley’s involvement.”
The letter accused Milley of setting up a “parallel chain of command” involving the nuclear launch codes and bypassing Trump.
The letter, signed by 27 members of the Freedom Caucus, including Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) and Chip Roy (R-Texas), said the media is painting the story as Milley reacting to the “supposedly unpredictable behavior of the elected President of the United States, Donald J. Trump.”
But if the accounts in the book are true, “Milley’s pledge to China is nothing less than outright treason.”
The caucus also wants the defense secretary to look into Milley’s Jan. 8 conversation with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Milley assured Pelosi that “the nuclear triggers are secure and we’re not going to do — we’re not going to allow anything crazy, illegal, immoral, or unethical to happen.”
They said it appears as if Milley was attempting to “make a partisan issue of National Security” in his conversation with the speaker.
The members asked Austin to respond by Oct. 6 and in the meantime suspend Milley’s security clearance.
President Biden said he still has “confidence” in Milley.
Milley’s spokesman, Col. Dave Butler, said in a statement Wednesday that the chairman acted under his authority as a military adviser to the president when he called China.
“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,” Butler said.
“All calls from the chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki appeared to excuse Milley’s alleged conduct as acceptable in the “context of this period and time in history” given that he did so while Trump was in his final days as commander-in-chief and amid the backdrop of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.