Pentagon, White House mobilize defense of Milley amid criticism over China calls

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John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser who worked with Milley in the Trump administration, also spoke in defense of Milley, and Milley’s spokesman issued a statement saying Milley had acted appropriately.

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Current and former defense officials pushed back on Wednesday over the notion that Milley was out of line, saying his call to his Chinese counterpart under protocol was similar to other high-level engagements by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense at the Department of Defense. were conducted in consultation with the citizens. , indirectly dismissing criticism that Milley acted in secret.

According to a defense official, the two met over videoconferencing calls with their Chinese counterpart, one on October 30 and the other on January 8 – including a State Department representative. The official said the read-out and notes of the call were shared with the intelligence community and interagency.


two backchannel calls

In the upcoming book “Peril” two backchannel calls to Milley are placed to China’s top general, Li Zuocheng, which Milley started because of intelligence that China believed the US was going to attack. Had been. Milley tried to pacify Lee by assuring him that the US was not considering a strike.

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“General Lee, you and I have known each other for five years now. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not a surprise. It’s not going to bolt.” is out of the blue,” Miley said in the October 30 call, according to Woodward and Costa.

“If there’s a war or some sort of kinetic action between the United States and China, there’s going to be a buildup, as there has always been in history,” he told Li, according to the book.

“Peril” also details a secret meeting held at his Pentagon office two days after the January 6 attack on the Capitol, in which Milley progressed the process of launching a nuclear weapon, telling top military officials that he needed to proceed. You need to consult them first. with any order. “No matter what you’re called, you process. You process. And I’m part of that process,” Milley said according to the book.

Milley made the call on October 30, in consultation with then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. But former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller told Granthshala on Wednesday that he was not told the extent of Milley’s engagement with China.

Miller told Granthshala in a text, “Looking back, I suspect Miley gave me an ‘I’m calling my foreign counterparts to check in’ during our daily ‘stand up’ sync/coordination meeting 1/ Provided after 6”. “But it certainly wasn’t an in-depth conference and certainly didn’t have any details about the topics and content.”

According to the book, Milley reassured Lee during that second call that the United States may appear “unstable” after the Capitol attack, adding, “We are 100 percent stable. Everything is fine.”

“I do not approve of anything of the nature depicted in Woodward’s book,” said Miller.

A defense official familiar with the call said Miller’s office was appropriately informed.

Milley’s spokesman, Colonel Dave Butler, said in a statement that Milley’s calls with other defense chiefs “are important to improve mutual understanding of US national security interests, reduce tension, provide clarity, and avoid unintended consequences or conflict.” ”

“His calls with the Chinese and others in October and January were reassuring to maintain strategic stability while keeping these duties and responsibilities in mind,” Butler said. “All calls from the president to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinating and communicating with the Department of Defense and interagency.”

The GOP attacks Milley

But the revelation of the two calls drew criticism from some former Trump administration officials and Republican lawmakers, who have portrayed it as dangerous independent diplomacy carried out behind closed doors. It was not necessarily the calls themselves that worried Milley’s critics, but the assurances he gave to China that the US would not launch a surprise attack.

'He's not going to keep quiet': how the country's top general found himself mired in Trump's political wars

Hours after Granthshala and the Washington Post reported “Peril” with new details, Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio called on President Joe Biden to sack him.

Rubio wrote in a letter, “Millie actively worked to undermine the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces and the seditious leak of classified information to the Communist Party of China prior to a possible armed conflict with the People’s Republic of China. considered.” for Biden on Tuesday.

Rubio alleged that Milley’s instructions to officers prior to carrying out any orders “interfered with the procedures by which the civilian commander-in-chief could order a nuclear attack.”

Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz told reporters Tuesday that Milley had to find out whether the quotes attributed to him in the book were true. “If they are, it is a gross violation of the chain of command,” Cruz said. “Our Constitution embeds civilian control of the military, and if the President of the Joint Chiefs was actively undermining the Commander-in-Chief and pledging our enemies to disobey his orders, it would be accompanied by his responsibilities. Totally inconsistent.”

Cruz said he “hopes the quotes are wrong.”

Republicans split on Biden's strategy to pay a political price for Afghanistan

And Trump issued a statement of his own on Tuesday evening suggesting that Milley should be tried for treason, saying he “never even thought of attacking China.”

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Milley’s action was “entirely appropriate” to review the protocol for launching nuclear weapons, and that, as the president’s principal military adviser, Milley was responsible for any nuclear weapons launch. Will be “seriously involved” in the decision.

Milley’s investigation comes after some Republicans called on him and other top Biden national security officials last month to resign following the missteps of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Miley will testify at the end of this month

In the final days of the Trump administration when he is due to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Sept. 28, Milley will face sharp questions about his actions in public.

Still, a GOP congressional aide said most Republicans want to focus on the US withdrawal from Afghanistan at the hearing, which will meet for the first time and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will testify on the return.

Some former officers came to Miley’s rescue.

Bolton said in a statement, “In the days following Donald Trump’s November 3, 2020 election defeat, I can only imagine the pressure he and others were under to fulfill their constitutional obligations.” ” “I have no doubt that General Mille consulted extensively during this period with his allies on the National Security Council and others. I would also be very surprised if many of them were not fully aware of General Milley’s actions. were, and they fully agreed with him.”

In “Peril”, Woodward and Costa write that Milley called his Chinese counterpart on October 30 when “sensitive intelligence” showed that the Chinese “thought Trump would create a crisis in desperation, presenting himself as the savior”. Will do and use gambling. To win re-election.”

A former senior defense official told Granthshala that the Chinese were unusually concerned about the rhetoric emanating from Washington in the days before the election, and that public rhetoric on the Chinese side was increasing as a result. The former official said Esper tasked its top policy official with getting a backchannel message to Beijing to reassure China, which was preceded by Milley’s call.

“It was a two-stage process led by SecDef and DoD citizens,” the official said. “This is an important distinction. The aim was to avoid any unnecessary confrontation that could lead to conflict.”

Millie made a second call on January 8, and Woodward and Costa wrote that Milley knew the Chinese leadership was “shocked and disoriented by televised images of an unprecedented attack on the American legislature.” Other countries, including Russia and Iran, were also on high alert.

According to the book, “Things can look shaky,” Milley said on the call. “But that’s the nature of democracy, General Lee. We are 100 percent stable. Everything is fine. But democracy can be crooked sometimes.”

According to the book, after the call, Miley was “convinced that the situation was serious,” and Lee remained unusually upset.

Later that day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called him, pressuring Milley about how to stop Trump from using nuclear weapons. According to a transcript of the conversation detailed in “Peril,” Milley reassured Pelosi on the call. But after that second call, Milley decided to call a meeting in his office, according to the book, where he told officials to consult them before ordering a military strike or launching a nuclear weapon.

Granthshala’s Jamie Gangel, Elizabeth Stuart and Oren Lieberman contributed to this report.


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