Milley Preps for Congressional Grilling Over ‘Treasonous’ Phone Call to PLA Head Behind Trump’s Back
10:25 GMT 28.09.2021 (Updated: 10:59 GMT 28.09.2021)
Earlier this month, a new book by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa revealed that Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley promised to personally phone and warn his Chinese counterpart Li Zuocheng if Donald Trump ordered a preemptive attack against China. Milley did not deny his conversations with Li. Republicans called his behaviour “treasonous.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley – the highest-ranking and most senior military officer in the United States Armed Forces, is preparing to face a grilling from Republican lawmakers Tuesday and Wednesday over his secret telephone conversations with LI Zuocheng, chief of the Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission of the People’s Liberation Army.
According to Woodward and Costa’s new book ‘Peril’, Milley phoned Li behind the president’s back
in October 2020 and January 2021, to personally assure him that he would warn Beijing if Trump decided to attack (in the first phone call) and to tell him that the situation in the US was under control in the wake of the 6 January riots at the Capitol (in the second).
Milley has not denied making the phone calls, telling reporters
that his clandestine conversations were “routine” and “perfectly within the duties and responsibilities” of his position, and made “to reassure both allies and adversaries, in this case, in order to ensure strategic stability.” Milley said he would “reserve” further comments on the record for an appearance “in front of the lawmakers who have the lawful responsibility to oversee the US military.”
Some of those lawmakers, including senior Republicans such as Florida Senator Marco Rubio, will have a chance to do just that –with the Senate Armed Services Committee to speak to Milley on Tuesday, and members of the House Armed Services Committee to do so Wednesday.
Rubio, former President Donald Trump and other Republicans have characterized Milley’s comments as “treasonous” and demanded his resignation, suggesting that his behaviour violated his obligations as a military officer and was potentially illegal.
“I think his credibility, and career, is on the line,” one former unnamed Pentagon official told
The Hill regarding the testimony. “I think he’s gonna get a grilling like he’s never seen before. And if he takes the bait and gets argumentative and defensive, it’s gonna be a big problem,” the official stressed.
Milley won’t face the music alone, with Biden Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) chief Gen. Frank McKenzie expected to join him for his testimony. The phone calls with Li are not the only topic on the agenda, with the Senate hearing expected to also include a discussion on the end of US military operations in Afghanistan “and plans for future counter-terrorism operations.”
General Milley was appointed to the post of Joint Chiefs Chairman in 2019 by Trump, but had a falling out with the commander in chief over a series of policy disagreements – ranging from the federal response to the nationwide anti-racism protests and riots in the summer of 2020, to Trump’s orders to pull US forces out of Afghanistan, to fears that the president might try to start a war with Iran or China, or even carry out a “coup” following the November election.
Trump has attacked Milley over the secret phone calls with Li and with Democratic lawmakers, insisting that he “never even thought of”
attacking China, and accusing the general of undermining his administration’s negotiations with Beijing like “an idiot with no common sense or ability to negotiate.”
24 September 2021, 13:54 GMT
Trump suggested that Milley had “hurt” America “very badly,” and suggested that he “should pay a big price” for his actions, “ just like the crooked politicians and lawyers on the Hillary Clinton campaign for years of Fake Russia, Russia, Russia stories.”
The White House has defended Milley, who has stayed on as Joint Chiefs Chairman under Joe Biden. The president recently told reporters that he had “great confidence” in the general, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki has told reporters that Biden has “complete confidence in [Milley’s] leadership, his patriotism and his fidelity to our Constitution.”
19 September 2021, 10:21 GMT