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WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. chief military officer told Congress on Tuesday that he knew that former President Donald Trump had no plans to attack China and that it was his job to help the Chinese in phone calls that sparked indignation among some from this fact to reassure legislators.
Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wholeheartedly defended two calls made to his Chinese counterpart.
“I know, I am sure that President Trump had no intention of attacking the Chinese and it was my direct responsibility to convey the President’s orders and intentions,” Milley told the Senate Armed Forces Committee on Tuesday. “My job at the time was to de-escalate. My message was again consistent: stay calm, calm and de-escalate. We won’t attack you. “
Milley was at the center of a firestorm after reporting that he had called General Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army twice to assure him that the United States would not suddenly go to war with or attack China. Details of the calls were first broadcast in excerpts from the recently published book “Peril” by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
Some U.S. lawmakers have said Milley has exceeded his powers and have asked President Joe Biden to fire him. Trump called Milley treasonous, called him “a complete madman” and said Milley “never told me about calls to China.”
In his most extensive comments to date on the matter, Milley said the October 30 and January 8 calls were fully coordinated with the then defense ministers as well as other US national security agencies.
The calls came during Trump’s tumultuous final months in office as he questioned the 2020 election results. The second call came two days after January 6, when a violent mob attacked the U.S. Capitol to prevent Congress from confirming Biden’s victory at the White House.
Milley said the October call came at the direction of then-defense chief Mark Esper and the second at the request of the Chinese and in coordination with the office of then-Defense Secretary Chris Miller.
Milley also addressed a call he received from House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi. He said Pelosi “called me to inquire about the president’s ability to launch nuclear weapons. I wanted to assure her that a nuclear launch is driven by a very specific and deliberate process. “
He said he had assured her that while the president was the only nuclear launch authority, “he will not launch it alone”. He said that as chairman, he will be involved in the decision-making process about the launch.
“There are processes, protocols and procedures, and I have repeatedly reassured her that there is no possibility of illegal, unauthorized or accidental launch,” Milley said.
He said he had a quick meeting with staff after the call to discuss the process. He also said he informed Miller about the call at the time.
“At no point have I attempted to change or influence the process, usurp authority, or join the chain of command, but I am expected to give my advice and ensure that the president is fully informed “, Called Milley.
This story has been corrected to show that Chris Miller was Secretary of Defense, not Secretary.