Milley says calls to China were 'perfectly within the duties'

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley on Friday told the Associated Press that his calls to China following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot were “routine” and “perfectly within the duties and responsibilities” of his role.

The top military official told the news outlet while traveling to Europe that he has regularly made similar calls “to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case in order to ensure strategic stability.”

The comments mark the first time Milley has publicly commented on the matter since excerpts from a forthcoming book by veteran journalist Bob Woodward and The Washington Post's Robert Costa revealed that Milley twice called his Chinese counterpart in the wake of the January 6 mob attack on the Capitol to assure him that former President Trump did not plan to attack Beijing as an attempt to stay in office.

According to an excerpt from the book, Milley said in one of the calls, “You and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.” 

The book, “Peril,” which is scheduled to be released Tuesday, also alleged that Milley sought to limit Trump's ability to launch a military strike or nuclear weapons following the Capitol riot, and held secret meetings at the Pentagon on the issue. 

The details have prompted calls for Milley’s resignation, including from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who argued Tuesday that the top general was involved in "the essence of a military coup." 

Trump himself also commented on the matter, writing in a statement, “If the story of ‘Dumbass’ General Mark Milley … is true, then I assume he would be tried for TREASON in that he would have been dealing with his Chinese counterpart behind the President’s back and telling China that he would be giving them notification ‘of an attack.’ ”

Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesperson Col. Dave Butler this week defended Milley’s communications as routine, noting in a statement that the top general regularly “communicates with Chiefs of Defense around the world, including 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,” Butler added. 

The spokesperson went on to say that “all calls from the Chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency.” 

Butler had also said that “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.” 

The House Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol said Thursday that it was reviewing the actions of Milley and other Pentagon officials in light of the revelations from the book.

After brief comments, Milley told the AP he plans to address the matter further when he testifies before Congress later in September.

“I think it’s best that I reserve my comments on the record until I do that in front of the lawmakers who have the lawful responsibility to oversee the U.S. military,” Milley told the outlet. “I’ll go into any level of detail Congress wants to go into in a couple of weeks.”

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