Milley Says China Calls Were Coordinated With Trump Aides
(Bloomberg) -- General Mark Milley, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said two calls he made to his Chinese counterparts in the final weeks of the Trump administration were a normal part of his job and were coordinated with the acting secretary of defense and other top officials.
“I know, I am certain, President Trump did not intend on attacking the Chinese, and it is my directed responsibility to convey presidential orders and intent,” Milley told the Senate Armed Service Committee on Tuesday, referring to a call he made on Oct. 30.
“My job at that time was to de-escalate,” Milley said, adding that “at Secretary of Defense Esper’s direction, I made a call to General Li on 30 October. Eight people sat in the call with me, and I read out the call within about 30 minutes of the call ending.”
Milley’s calls to his Chinese counterpart have been attacked by some Republicans as a firing offense and even treasonous. Democrats have said the calls -- first reported in a book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa -- illustrate the chaos of President Donald Trump’s final weeks in office, when he disputed Joe Biden’s election as president and pressed his supporters and aides to contest the vote.
Milley testified that both calls were prompted “by concerning intelligence which caused us to believe the Chinese were worried about an imminent attack by the U.S.”
Milley said that on Dec. 31, as Trump’s unfounded protests over the election results continued, Chinese officials requested a second call with him. It was scheduled for Jan. 8, which ended up being two days after a riot at the Capitol by pro-Trump supporters interrupted the certification of Biden’s Electoral College votes.
Trump administration officials were briefed on that call as well, Milley said, naming then-Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and acting Pentagon Secretary Christopher Miller.
“Shortly after my call ended with General Li, I informed both Secretary of State Pompeo and White House Chief of Staff Meadows about the call among other topics” Milley said. “Soon after that, I attended a meeting with Acting Secretary Miller where I briefed him on the call.”
In Tuesday’s testimony, Milley also discussed a previously reported call on Jan. 8 from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who wanted to “inquire about the president’s ability to launch nuclear weapons,” Milley said.
He said he responded that “the president is the sole nuclear launch authority but he doesn’t launch them alone.”
And then to the more delicate questions Pelosi had about the commander-in-chief, Milley said he told her that “I am not qualified to determine the mental health of the president of the United States.”
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