A former assistant secretary to the Army in the Trump administration says Gen. Mark Milley of repeatedly overstepped his authority and undercut potential orders from the former president.
The accusations come as Washington Post staffers reveal in a new book that Milley huddled with other security officials to discuss his secret calls to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
E. Casey Wardynski, a former assistant secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, claimed that Milley, who, according to the book, “Peril,” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, called his Chinese counterpart twice to warn him that the US would not attack Beijing, routinely violated the bounds of his authority.
Wardynski said Milley and Chief of Staff of the US Army Gen. James McConville engaged in a “pattern of behavior” to thwart former President Donald Trump.
“These kinds of behaviors and this willingness for military leaders to exceed their authorities and ignore authorities of the civilian officials appointed over them … positions under the Constitution and laws of the country was not something that came to them on Jan. 8,” Wardynski told Fox News.
“It was something that they had done for a while.”
According to “Peril,” Milley called Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army, twice — once on Oct. 30 and again on Jan 8, two days after the Capitol riot.
Wardynski said there were “stunning” examples of top military officials acting beyond their authority around the time of the riots last summer in Washington.
“Gen. Milley, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – first thing to know, is he a staff officer? He is an adviser, he’s not a commander – he ordered elements of the 82nd Airborne and the 10th Mountain Division to fly overnight to D.C. to Fort Belvoir and [Joint Base] Andrews without consulting the Army chain of command and reaching around the chain of command to do that. I know that for a fact,” Wardynski, who is running for a congressional seat in Alabama, said.
Wardynski also described Milley as acting like a “bully” in meetings to control the agenda and claimed that he and other military leaders had no “intention of supporting” Trump.
“My impression is, for some time, these people had no intention of supporting the president,” Wardynski said. “Milley, in staff meetings, was routinely a bully. He would sit at the head of the table with the secretary, the secretary would say we’re going to do the following, and Milley would look at the gathered staff and tell them, ‘Let me tell you what the secretary just said’ and it was pretty much something different.”
Woodward and Costa dismissed claims that Milley bypassed Trump to talk to Li because, they claim, the conversations didn’t occur in a vacuum.
“After the call, he then gave a full briefing to four people. Gina Haspel, the CIA director. Said to her, watch everything, 360. Talked to Paul Nakasone, who heads the National Security Agency, which does worldwide eavesdropping, and said ’needles up,’ which is an expression: Listen everywhere,” Woodward said during an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
He said Milley also talked to the heads of the armed forces and told them to “watch everything.”
“And then he called the admiral in charge of the region in the Pacific and asked him to cancel operations that the Chinese might see as provocative. And so there’s nothing hidden about this,” Woodward continued. In the calls, Milley assured Li that the US would not launch an attack, vowed to call him if Trump did order military action against Beijing, and informed him that the US was stable despite what the Chinese saw on Jan. 6.
Woodward and Costa said the days after the Capitol riot were a time of “maximum tension.”
Costa said their reporting showed that Milley didn’t believe Trump wanted to go to war with China.
“But it was his assessment, his conclusion, based on intelligence and other briefings that the Chinese were highly alarmed by what happened on Jan. 6. What Chairman Milley was trying to do as we show in the book is contain a national security emergency,” he said, adding that Milley did not go “rogue,” despite concealing the call from the commander-in-chief.
Wardynski claimed McConville told him that he “would not be obeying any illegal orders from the president” as riots following the death of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis spread across the country in the summer of 2020, including in the nation’s capital.
“That’s not something in 30 years of service in that uniform I thought I’d ever hear,” Wardynski said. “My interpretation of that was he was talking about any use of the Insurrection Act by the president.”
Trump threatened to use the 1807 law allowing the commander-in-chief to deploy military forces in the states if governors are unable to stem violent unrest but never did.
Woodward and Costa also talk about how Vice President Mike Pence tried to walk a narrow path when he carried out his duty to certify the results of the Electoral College vote on Jan. 6 and to keep Trump on his side.
“He’s trying to ride both horses, and that is to do his constitutional duty but also keep the avenues to Trump open,” Woodward said.
The storming of the Capitol amid the certification of the 2020 presidential election “is a national security crisis for the country,” Woodward said.
He said the vice president’s actions that day revolved around the “question of the legitimacy of the American presidency.”
Costa said their reporting showed Pence in “agony” the day before the certification vote.
“He’s with President Trump on Jan. 5 hours before the insurrection, and President Trump has this temptation of power. ‘Wouldn’t it be cool,’ he says to Vice President Pence, ‘to have the power to decertify an election.’”
Woodward and Costa also said they wrote about how President Biden’s comments that Vladimir Putin is a “killer” ticked off the Russian leader.
Woodward said the two were able to get details about the fallout.
“I think it was April – so just several months ago – between Putin and Biden, and Putin starts, ‘I’m not happy you called me a killer.’ And Biden gets very defensive and said, ‘In your interview well, it was on another subject. And my answer was not premeditated.’ Well, of course, it’s an open interview, you can ask any question. We were able to work through what’s the Biden-Putin relationship, which is critical to the United States,” Woodward said.