Former President Donald Trump claimed Wednesday that he was completely in the dark about Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking to his Chinese counterpart in the final months of the his administration.
“Milley never told me about calls being made to China,” Trump said in an emailed statement from his Save America PAC. “From what I understand, he didn’t tell too many other people either. He put our Country in a very dangerous position but [Chinese] President Xi [Jinping] knows better, and would’ve called me.”
Gen. Milley’s contacts with a top Chinese military official were detailed in a forthcoming book co-authored by Watergate reporter Bob Woodward.
Woodward, a longtime Washington Post associate editor, and reporter Robert Costa reveal in their book “Peril” that Milley made two calls to People’s Liberation Army Gen. Li Zuocheng, one on Oct. 30, 2020 and the other on Jan. 8, 2021.
In the October call, Woodward and Costa report, Milley told Li that the US was “not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.” Milley reportedly went so far as to tell Li that if Trump did order military action against China, “I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”
The conversation was apparently prompted by intelligence Milley had received warning that Beijing believed that Trump would soon greenlight a military operation targeting China.
“The way Milley and the Biden Administration handled the Afghanistan withdrawal, perhaps the most embarrassing moment in our Country’s history, would not exactly instill fear in China,” Trump said Wednesday before adding that “Milley is a complete nutjob!”
“The only reason Biden will not fire or court-martial Milley,” the former president concluded, “is because he doesn’t want him spilling the dirty secrets on Biden’s deadly disaster in Afghanistan.”
President Biden stood behind America’s top-ranking military officer Wednesday, telling reporters that he had “great confidence in General Milley” while press secretary Jen Psaki said the president had “complete confidence in Milley’s “leadership, his patriotism and his fidelity to our Constitution.”
Col. Dave Butler, a spokesman for the Joint Staff, acknowledged that the conversations between Milley and Li took place and claimed they were “in keeping with [Milley’s] duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability.”
Meanwhile, Christopher Miller, who served as acting secretary of defense between the 2020 presidential election and Biden’s inauguration, said in a statement to Fox News that he had no knowledge of Milley’s Jan. 8 call to Li — during which Milley stated that the US government was “100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.”
Miller called for an investigation into the claims made by Woodward and Costa and said that if they were true, Milley “must resign immediately or be fired by the Secretary of Defense to guarantee the sanctity of the officer corps.”
Miller was backed by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who told Fox News’ Sean Hannity Wednesday night that “if you had a senior military leader, who is simply an adviser, tell the Chinese Communist Party that they would get notice of an attack, this rivals anything we’ve seen in our nation’s history.
“Only the president of the United States has the capacity to make those decisions and I’d be shocked if the … secretary of defense gave him [Milley] any authority to even contemplate that very conversation,” Pompeo added. “It would only be those two people that could have told General Milley to have that conversation, if in fact it took place.”
When Pompeo was asked by Hannity if it would be “treasonous” for Milley to promise Li that he would “tip them off” about any military action — as reported by Woodward and Costa — the former secretary of state answered: “You know, I imagine it would be.”
“It would certainly be acting in a way, that you were knowingly acting in a way that was inconsistent with the best interests of the United States government and certainly the authority that you had as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Pompeo clarified. “I can say that with absolute certainty … I hope this didn’t happen the way it’s described in Woodward’s book. I can only say that we need to get to the bottom of this just as quickly as possible.”