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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."

Go deeper

Oct 18, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Ex-Defense Secretary Gates: U.S. "seems to be coming unhinged"

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates being interviewed on CBS' "60 Minutes" for Sunday's show. Photo: CBS

"Extreme polarization" in the U.S. is the "greatest threat" to the country's democracy, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told CBS' "60 Minutes" in an interview broadcast Sunday.

Why it matters: The Republican, who served eight presidents, including stints as CIA director, and later as defense secretary for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, added that the "greatest threat is found within the two square miles that encompass the White House and the Capitol Building."

Trump deposed under oath in lawsuit over 2015 protest

Former President Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Photo: Scott Olson via Getty Images

Former President Trump was questioned under oath for several hours on Monday in a deposition related to a 2015 lawsuit, CNN reports.

Why it matters: The suit alleges that Trump's security guards assaulted six people outside Trump Tower in New York while they were protesting Trump's derogatory comments about Mexico and Mexican immigrants.

Mike Allen, author of AM
Oct 17, 2021 - Axios on HBO

GOP senator smacks Trump

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told “Axios on HBO” he’s not sure former President Donald Trump would win the Republican nomination if he ran in 2024 — a rare voice of criticism from within the party.

  • When I raised the conventional wisdom that Trump would be expected to win the nomination, Cassidy jumped in.“
  • I don't know that,” the senator said during our interview in Chalmette, La.