President Joe Biden on Wednesday threw his support behind the top U.S. military officer, Mark Milley, a day after a new book said he went around civilian leaders to place secret calls to his Chinese counterpart over concerns about then-President Donald Trump.
“I have great confidence in General Milley,” Biden told reporters on Wednesday, a day after the allegations broke in excerpts of a new book by The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
BIDEN: “I have great confidence in General Milley” pic.twitter.com/WAj4vIKrtM
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) September 15, 2021
Milley’s office pushed back against the report in the book, saying the calls he made as chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff were coordinated within the Pentagon and across the U.S. government.
According to excerpts of the book, Milley secretly called General Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army twice in the final months of the Trump administration to say the U.S. government was stable. Milley reportedly told Li that the United States was not going to attack China and, if there were to be an attack, he would alert him ahead of time.
Miller has denied knowing about the alleged call.
Milley sought to address fears the Chinese allegedly had that the U.S. was considering an attack on Chinese assets in the South China Sea. “If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise,” Milley told Zuocheng, according to the authors.
In another section of their book, Woodward and Costa also claimed that Milley met with staff following the January 6 riot at the Capitol, instructing them to bring any Trump directives regarding the possible launch of nuclear weapons through him.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said earlier Wednesday that Milley had the support of the administration, though the White House was not going to comment on the reports of Milley’s alleged conduct.
“The president has worked side by side with Chairman Milley for almost eight months as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs,” Psaki said, according to Axios.
“His experience with him has been that he is a patriot, he is somebody who has fidelity to the Constitution, and he has confidence in his leadership and the role he has played in his experience with him,” she continued. “I can’t speak to anonymous unconfirmed reports about prior conversations during the last administration.”
On Wednesday, Joint Staff spokesman Col. Dave Butler released a statement acknowledging Milley’s October and January calls to the Chinese but defended them as part of Milley’s “duties and responsibilities.”
Here’s what Butler said:
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs regularly communicates with the Chiefs of Defense across the world, including with China and Russia. These conversations remain vital to improving mutual understanding of U.S. national security interests, reducing tensions, providing clarity, and avoiding unintended consequences or conflict.
His calls with the Chinese and others in October and January were in keeping with these duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability. All calls from the Chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated, and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency.
Also in keeping with his responsibilities as senior military adviser to the President and Secretary of Defense, Milley frequently conducts meetings with uniformed leaders across the Services to ensure all leaders are aware of current issues. The meeting regarding nuclear weapons protocols was to remind uniformed leaders in the Pentagon of the long-established and robust procedures in light of media reporting on the subject.
General Milley continues to act and advise within his authority in the lawful tradition of civilian control of the military and his oath to the Constitution.