Congressional lawmakers have called on Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley to respond to reports that he cut off the statutory chain of command at the end of President Trump’s term, undermining civilian control of the military.
Gen. Milley told lawmakers last year at a congressional hearing that he contacted his Chinese counterpart two times to tell him that the U.S. had no plans to attack China.
Rep. Jim Banks, Indiana Republican, said in a speech that Gen. Milley must “set the record straight.”
“General Milley is accused of secretly seizing the president’s military powers. That is the most serious crime. If he is innocent, he has a duty to say so,” he said.
The phone calls to China were detailed in the book “Peril” written by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
The book also recounted how Gen. Milley directed senior military officers not to follow the president’s orders unless the general first approved them.
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Mr. Banks and Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, both sent a letter to Gen. Milley asking him to either confirm or dispute the book’s claims.
Mr. Grassley said the letter was also signed by Republican Sens. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
“If those books and all attended press coverage of those books, had contained gross misrepresentations. We would have heard about it a long time ago. He would have hammered the authors and corrected the record,” Mr. Grassley said in a speech in the Senate. “However, to date, not a peep from the general. His silence speaks volumes.”
He said that Gen. Milley has not responded.
The general’s phone calls with his Chinese counterpart were heard by numerous U.S. military officials and later reported to administration officials including the White House chief of staff and the secretary of state, according to the book.
“General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay,” Gen. Milley told a Chinese general in an October call, according to the book. “We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.”
Another call was allegedly made two days after the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot.
Gen. Milley said at the hearing that calls on Oct. 30 and Jan. 8 were coordinated before and after with Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller’s staff.
“I believe that was faithfully executing the intent of the president of the United States at the time, because I knew with certainty that President Trump was not going to attack the Chinese just out of the blue,” he said.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff’s office did not respond to a request for comment.