Gen. Mark Milley has made his first comments since it was reported that he called his Chinese counterpart and assured him that he would warn of any strike from the United States.
The general said that these types of calls are “routine” and were done “to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case in order to ensure strategic stability,” Fox News reported.
That is not a denial that the phone call happened.
He only gave a brief defense of himself before saying that he would save more information for Congress.
“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,” he said. “I’ll go into any level of detail Congress wants to go into in a couple of weeks.”
Milley has been at the center of a firestorm amid reports he made two calls to Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army to assure him that the United States was not going to suddenly go to war with or attack China.
Descriptions of the calls made last October and in January were first aired in excerpts from the forthcoming book “Peril” by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. The book says Milley told Li that he would warn Li in the event of an attack.
While speaking to reporters from the White House on Wednesday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the explosive new book that alleges that General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, held secret meetings behind Donald Trump’s back and even secretly told leaders not to take military strike or nuclear orders from Trump days after the Jan. 6 incident at the U.S. Capitol.
Psaki said Biden “has complete confidence” in Milley and made it clear that the president does not believe he should step down.
Below is a transcript of the exchange:
REPORTER: “A new book reports that near the end of the Trump presidency, Chairman Milley had two conversations with his Chinese counterpart, promising the countries would go to war and that he would give an early warning if something were to happen. In a statement just minutes ago, Chairman Milley did not dispute this account. On this, does the President feel these calls were appropriate? Does he have confidence in the Chairman? And some Republican senators have called for Chairman Milley to be dismissed. Is he going to keep his job?”
PSAKI: “Well, I saw the statement, of course, that the Department of Defense — or I should say the Joint Chiefs spokesperson just released minutes ago. I’m not going to add more, speak to anonymous, unconfirmed reports about conversations with limited context from here, but what I can assure you all of is that the President knows General Milley, he has been Chairman of the Joint Chiefs for almost eight months of his presidency, they worked side by side through a range of international events, and the President has complete confidence in his leadership, his patriotism and his fidelity to our Constitution. Since you gave me the opportunity, I just wanted to add, I think it’s important to consider some of the context, key context of this period in time — of time in history that we’re discussing and is outlined or covered in portions of this book. The outgoing president of the United States during this period of time fomented unrest, leading to an insurrection and an attack on our nation’s capital on January 6, which we have all — you all have covered extensively, of course, one of the darkest days in our nation’s history. Beyond reports in this book, there’s been widespread reporting and commentary from members of his own cabinet, the former president’s cabinet, I should say, including high-ranking national security officials, questioning the former president’s stability, his behavior and his suitability to oversee The National security of the United States. So, those are important questions that need to be discussed as well.”
REPORTER: “I just want to follow up on this. Does the President believe that Gen. Milley should testify before Congress about his actions during that time?”
PSAKI: “Look, I think we — the President has been clear with his administration and members of his cabinet, national security team, that we’ll continue to work with Congress and cooperate with them as appropriate in meeting their needs. We’ve done that from the beginning of the administration. I would defer to the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs for further decisions.”