WASHINGTON, Sept.28 (Reuters) – U.S. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Tuesday fended off the most personal and direct attacks by lawmakers of his career as Republicans slammed his calls with China and his interviews for critical books. of Donald Trump’s presidency.
Milley, 63, was steadfast as Republicans called for his resignation in an already controversial hearing that was to focus on the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan – but has repeatedly deviated in questions about the general .
When asked, Milley admitted speaking to Washington Post author Bob Woodward for a book that featured Milley’s role in trying to avoid a crisis over apparent Chinese fears Trump would attack Beijing. during his last months in power.
The book detailed the allegedly “secret” calls with General Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army on October 30, 2020 and again on January 8, and said Milley had promised to warn China first if he was ordered to attack.
Milley confirmed the calls but said they were not secret to U.S. government officials and that he was acting on instructions from some of Trump’s key aides to defuse tensions. He admitted to trying to send a message that “we are not going to attack you” following US intelligence indicating that Beijing feared an attack.
Republican Senator Dan Sullivan challenged Milley, implying that he would be executed for this kind of behavior in China.
“If the PLA leader called you and said, ‘Hey, we are preparing to invade Taiwan’ and (Chinese President) Xi Jinping found out, he would be shot,” Sullivan said, referring to the Party. Chinese people. Liberation Army.
Milley said the calls were part of his mandate to ensure strategic stability.
“I know, I’m sure, President Trump had no intention of attacking the Chinese and it is my direct responsibility to convey presidential orders and intent,” Milley told the Senate committee of the armed forces.
Trump, who said Milley should be fired if the accounts were true, released a statement after the hearing ridiculing the Army general.
“No wonder the withdrawal from Afghanistan was such a disaster. ‘General’ Milley spent all of his time talking to these fake book writers,” Trump said.
Senator Angus King, an independent member of the committee who chats with Democrats, praised Milley. “I think he was doing an important service to the country,” King told reporters on a conference call after the hearing.
The Democratic chairman of the committee, Senator Jack Reed, also told reporters that de-escalating international tensions was part of Milley’s job.
‘HE IS CRAZY’
Milley acknowledged that he also spoke on Jan.8 with Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, who the Washington Post said asked the general what safeguards were in place to prevent a “Unstable president” to launch a nuclear strike.
“He’s crazy. You know he’s crazy,” Pelosi told Milley, the newspaper reported, citing a transcript of the call.
Milley, in his remarks to Congress, said Pelosi asked him on January 8 if Trump’s actions could lead to an accidental nuclear missile launch.
He responded by assuring him of guarantees and added: “I am not qualified to determine the sanity of the President of the United States.”
Milley told the Armed Services Committee: “At no time did I attempt to change or influence the process, usurp authority or fit into the chain of command. “
President Joe Biden has backed Milley throughout the controversy surrounding the appeals, saying he has “great faith” in him.
But this is not the first time that the top American officer has been in the spotlight. Last year, Milley sparked an uproar after accompanying Trump to a church for a photoshoot just after authorities cracked down on civil rights protesters.
He later said he regretted it, saying the incident created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.
In an exchange on Tuesday, Milley admitted to having spoken with two other groups of book authors as well. Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn has attacked him.
“In order to have your name in a book… all you’ve managed to do is politicize the US military, degrade our reputation with our allies,” Blackburn said.
Reporting by Phil Stewart and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Dan Grebler and Aurora Ellis
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