Sep 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Milley says top Trump officials knew of calls to Chinese counterpart

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley told senators on Tuesday that top Trump officials, including chief of staff Mark Meadows, were briefed on calls he made to reassure his Chinese counterpart that former President Trump would not launch a surprise attack in his final days in office.

Why it matters: Some Republicans have accused Milley of disloyalty and demanded he resign in the wake of the revelations, which were first reported in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa's new book. Milley insisted in his testimony the calls were completely appropriate and intended to de-escalate the possibility of conflict with China.

What they're saying: "I am specifically directed to communicate with the Chinese by Department of Defense guidance, the policy dialogue system. These military-to-military communications at the highest level are critical to the security of the United States in order to deconflict military actions, manage crises, and prevent war between great powers that are armed with the world's most deadliest weapons," Milley said in an opening statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

  • "The calls on 30 October and 8 January were coordinated before and after with Secretary Esper and acting Secretary Miller's staffs and the interagency. The specific purpose of the October and January calls were generated by concerning intelligence which caused us to believe the Chinese were worried about an attack on them by the United States," he continued.
  • "I know, I am certain that President Trump did not intend to attack the Chinese, and it is my directed responsibility, and it was my directed responsibility by the secretary, to convey that intent to the Chinese."

Milley also addressed the allegations surrounding his Jan. 8 phone call with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, during which he reportedly said he agreed with her that Trump was "crazy."

  • "I sought to assure [Pelosi] that nuclear launch is governed by a very specific and deliberate process. She was concerned and made various personal references characterizing the president," Milley said.
  • "I explained to her that the president is the sole nuclear launch authority, but he doesn't launch them alone. And that I am not qualified to determine the mental health of the president of the United States."
  • "There are processes, protocols and procedures in place, and I repeatedly assured her that there was no chance of an illegal, unauthorized, or accidental launch."
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