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Biden expresses confidence in Milley amid questions over his calls to China

The country’s top-ranking military officer did not bypass his civilian leaders when he called his Chinese counterpart in October and January, his office said on Wednesday, while General Mark Milley, president of the state – Joint Chiefs of Staff, decided to limit the damage of a book that alleges he secretly called China twice because he feared his then boss, President Donald J. Trump, would start a war with Beijing.

General Milley’s spokesman Col. Dave Butler said in a statement that “all calls from the president to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Defense Department and the interagency “, in a reference to the government national security bureaucracy.

“General Milley continues to act and advise within the framework of his authority in the legal tradition of civilian control of the army and his oath to the Constitution,” the statement said.

General Milley’s “calls with the Chinese and others in October and January,” Colonel Butler said, “were consistent with these reassuring duties and responsibilities in order to maintain strategic stability.”

Colonel Butler did not elaborate on the details of the conversation, which, according to “Peril,” the new book by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa indicated that Mr. Trump did not intend to attack China as part of a to stay in power and that the United States does not collapse.

“Things may seem volatile,” General Milley told Chinese General Li Zuocheng on January 8, two days after supporters of Mr. Trump stormed the Capitol in an attempt to prevent certification of his electoral defeat. , on the second of two such calls. “But that’s the nature of democracy, General Li. We’re 100 percent stable. Everything is fine. But democracy can sometimes be botched.

Yet despite these assurances, the book claims that General Milley was so concerned about Mr. Trump that he called a meeting with key commanders later in the day to remind them of the procedures for launching a nuclear weapon and that ‘he must have been involved in such a decision.

Pentagon press secretary John F. Kirby said on Wednesday there was nothing wrong with that, calling him “very suitable for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as as senior military adviser to the president, for wanting to see the protocols reviewed. He added that “I do not see anything in what I have read that would cause concern.”

President Biden said on Wednesday he had “great faith in General Milley”.

“The president has complete confidence in his leadership, his patriotism and his loyalty to our Constitution,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a press briefing Wednesday.

But some Republican leaders have taken to Twitter to express their fury.

“I will decline this invitation to dine with the leader of the attempted coup and renowned race theorist Mark Milley,” Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida wrote, posting a photo of an invitation from National Defense University at a dinner and reception in October where the General is the featured speaker. It is unlikely that the general extended this invitation personally; he took Mr Gaetz to task in June at a congressional hearing after Mr Gaetz criticized military institutions for their teaching on systemic racism.

Instead of opposing the congressman, as military leaders often do in congressional hearings, General Milley retorted that he had read Mao, Marx and Lenin and that “don’t make me a communist” .

Yet the last thing the Pentagon wants is the appearance that military leaders have bypassed their civilian counterparts, even during the tumultuous final months of the Trump presidency, when Mr. Trump made it clear in a series of meetings, officials said, he was not opposed to using the military to help him stay in power.

Similar to other news articles and books published since Mr. Trump left office, “Peril” details how his presidency essentially collapsed during his final months in office, particularly following his electoral defeat and the start of his campaign to deny the results. Key aides – including General Milley, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and Attorney General William P. Barr – became convinced they had to take drastic action to prevent it from trampling on American democracy or igniting conflict. international, and General Milley believed Mr. Trump had mentally declined in the aftermath of the election, according to the book.

A senior defense official said that Mr Esper, in the weeks leading up to his unceremonious dismissal by Mr Trump, also made appeals to reassure his worried foreign counterparts about Mr Trump.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed to Washington reporting