EXCLUSIVE: Former Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, who led the Pentagon from the post-2020 election period until inauguration day, said he “has not and will never allow” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to keep “secret” “calls his Chinese counterpart, calling the allegations” a shameful and unprecedented act of insubordination “, and calling on him to resign” immediately “.
In a statement to Fox News, Miller said the United States military, since its inception, “has operated under the unbreakable principle of civilian control of the military.”
MILEY THE SPOKESMAN DEFENDS CALLS WITH CHINA AS “VITALS” TO “AVOID UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OR CONFLICT”
“The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the highest ranking military officer whose sole role is to provide specific military advice to the chairman, and he is prohibited by law from exercising executive authority to command the forces. Miller said. “The chain of command goes from the president to the secretary of defense, not through the president.”
Miller went on to refer to the allegations, which are included in the book “Peril,” co-authored by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, that Milley made two secret phone calls, both to his Chinese counterpart. , General Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army. The book alleges that the phone calls took place before the 2020 presidential election, October 30, 2020, and then two days after the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill, January 8, 2021.
The book claims that Milley contacted Li after reviewing information suggesting that Chinese officials believed the United States was planning an attack on China as part of military exercises in the South China Sea. The authors of the book also claim that Milley contacted Li a second time to reassure him that the United States would not make any kind of advances or attack China in any form, as Milley promised, ” We are 100% stable. Everything is fine. But democracy can be sloppy at times. “
But Fox News spoke to several people in the room during Milley’s two phone calls with Li. The calls, in October, were coordinated with the office of then Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. .
“They were not secret,” a US official told Fox News of the calls, which were made by video conference.
Fox News learned that around 15 people were present for the calls. Sources told Fox News that there were several note-takers present and said the calls were both knowingly made by then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Secretary of Defense at the time. then Acting Defense Chris Miller, which Miller denied.
“If the information in Woodward’s book is correct, it represents a shameful and unprecedented act of insubordination on the part of the nation’s highest military officer,” Miller said, adding that if the story of the “rampages histrionics and Milley’s unauthorized and unconstitutional involvement in foreign policy prove true, he must resign immediately or be fired by the Secretary of Defense to ensure the sanctity of the officer corps. ”
“The pursuit of partisan politics and personal interests is a violation of an officer’s sacred duty and has no place in the US military,” Miller said, adding that “a lower-ranking officer accused of Such behavior would be immediately relieved of his duties pending a full and independent investigation.
“As Secretary of Defense, I have not and never will authorize such conduct,” Miller said.
Miller went on to explain that “the reason” he agreed to serve as former President Trump’s Secretary of Defense was “because of his commitment to our military, veterans and their families and his concern. to end our involvement in overseas operations that lacked strategic coherence. ”
“Any accusation that President Trump intended to start a war with China is completely unfounded,” Miller said. “President Trump absolutely believed in and advocated a more aggressive approach from China, but he was elected to end our nation’s wars, not to start new ones. I was proud to play a small role in making it happen. these goals. ”
Miller added: “I look forward to a full, non-partisan investigation into the accusations made by Woodward to ensure that the genius of our founders and subsequent generations who established a system and culture of subservience to our military – the most powerful force in our nation – in civilian control endures. ”
And former Defense Ministry Chief of Staff Kash Patel told Fox News that “the law governing Joint Chiefs of Staff specifically prohibits the president from exercising any operational command authority.” .
“Congress put this in statute because the US military has to be led by a civilian, the commander-in-chief,” Patel continued. “In addition, by law, the national command authority ranges from the president to the secretary of defense to include all matters relating to troop deployments, theater of war operations and nuclear command.”
MILEY’S CALLS WITH CHINESE COUNTERPART “WERE NOT SECRET”: US OFFICERS
Patel added that if the calls with China are true, Milley “broke the law regarding operational authority.”
“Calling in a foreign counterpart and discussing operational capabilities against this enemy is literally betrayal,” Patel said. “Neither the White House nor the Defense Secretary’s office allowed the president to make calls with Chinese officials regarding the operations.”
And Department of Defense Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Francescon also told Fox News that it was “the policy at the time that there was no high-level government engagement with the China, because of their bad deeds and efforts “.
Francescon added that it was “the general policy at the time not to have high-level engagement with the Chinese on issues like this,” and added that Miller and his office “did not been informed in advance of any appeal to the Chinese in particular “.
“At most, they were presented with the idea that Milley was calling foreign allies and partners to reassure them,” he said.
But the spokesperson for the Joint Chiefs of Staff Col. Dave Butler defends the allegations of “secret” calls with his Chinese counterpart, saying the conversations are “vital” to “reducing tensions” and “avoiding unforeseen consequences or conflicts,” saying the calls have been coordinated with high-level defense officials.
“The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs communicates regularly with defense chiefs around the world, including China and Russia. These conversations remain vital to improving mutual understanding of US national security interests, reducing tensions, providing clarity and avoiding unanticipated consequences or conflicts, ”Milley’s spokesperson Col. Dave Butler said said Wednesday in a statement.
Butler said Milley’s calls “with the Chinese and others in October and January were consistent with these reassured duties and responsibilities in order to maintain strategic stability.”
“All of the president’s calls to his counterparts, including those reported, are managed, coordinated and communicated with the Defense Department and the agency,” Butler said.
“Also as part of his responsibilities as Senior Military Advisor to the President and Secretary of Defense, General Milley frequently arranges meetings with uniformed leaders of the services to ensure that all leaders are aware of the current issues, ”Butler continued. “The purpose of the Nuclear Weapons Protocols meeting was to remind uniformed Pentagon leaders of the solid and long-established procedures in light of media reports on the subject.”
Butler added, “General Milley continues to act and advise within his authority in the legal tradition of civilian control of the military and his oath to the Constitution.”
Meanwhile, a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity claimed that Milley regularly called his Chinese and Russian counterparts, and explained that he had been speaking to Li for about five years. The source said it was normal for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
According to the official, there was full civilian oversight of the phone calls, including a State Department official and Milley’s political adviser. Notes of the appeals were taken and a briefing note was sent to the secretary of defense and the intelligence community, the official said.
“It was not done as some sort of conspiracy,” another participant who overheard the conversation told Fox News.
According to those familiar with it, the October phone call had several topics, one of which was about the elections. The Chinese, the sources said, were concerned about what they saw as the instability of the American system. Milley, according to a source, reassured his counterpart that the United States is a stable democracy.
Another source said the call was to assure adversaries that the United States was not planning any military action.
Fox News learned that Milley had up to 20 phone calls with Li and NATO allies following the January 6 riot in an attempt to reassure them about the stability of the US government and reassure China on the fact that the United States had not planned a surprise attack – all in an effort to reduce tensions with China during the interim period between the elections and the nomination, and to project stability so that the adversaries of the United States did not profit from the domestic unrest during this period.
The White House also defends Milley, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki claiming that the president “worked side-by-side with President Milley for nearly eight months, as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs experienced with it. he is because he is a patriot. “
“He’s someone who is loyal to the Constitution and he has confidence in his leadership. And the role he played in his experience with him,” Psaki said. “I cannot speak to unconfirmed anonymous reports of previous conversations during the last administration.”
Psaki added that the president “knows General Milley” and said “they have worked side by side through a series of international events”.
“The president has complete confidence in his leadership, his patriotism and his loyalty to our Constitution,” Psaki said.