The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Tuesday defended calling his Chinese counterpart in the last weeks of the Trump administration as part of his responsibilities — adding that he was “certain” former President Donald Trump did not intend to launch an attack on China.
Gen. Mark Milley confirmed during a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing that he called Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army twice — once on Oct. 30 before the presidential election and once on Jan. 8, two days after the Capitol riot.
“Peril,” the new book by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, claimed Milley reached out to Li to assure him that Trump was not planning on launching an attack, and that he would warn China if that were the case.
Milley told the senators that the calls to China were made after the Department of Defense picked up intelligence leading them to “believe the Chinese were worried about an attack on them by the United States.”
“I know, I am certain, that President Trump did not intend to attack the Chinese, and it was my direct responsibility by the secretary to convey that intent to the Chinese,” Milley said.
The chairman also said other members of the Trump administration were aware of those calls to Li.
Eight people sat in his call in October and 11 sat in on the January call.
“I personally informed both Secretary of State Pompeo and White House Chief of Staff Meadows about the call among other topics. Soon after that, I attended a meeting with Acting [Defense] Secretary Miller, where I briefed him on the call,” Milley said of the January call.
He said his calls to Li, like other conversations with military officials around the world, are needed to “deconflict military actions, manage crises, and prevent war between great powers that are armed with the world’s most deadliest weapons.”
Milley also acknowledged that he spoke to multiple authors of books about the Trump administration.
He told Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) that he talked to Woodward for “Peril,” Carol Leonnig and Philip Ruck for “I Alone Can Fix It,” and Michael Bender for “Frankly We Did Win This Election.”
“Were you accurately represented?” Blackburn asked.
“I haven’t read any of the books, so I don’t know,” he replied.