At a Tuesday hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley shut down complaints from former President Donald Trump and others regarding (among other issues) calls that he made to a Chinese general towards the end of the Trump presidency. On these calls, Milley has been reported to (among other things) have sought to reassure the Chinese that an attack by the United States on China was not imminent. In response to this reporting, Milley had been accused of essentially going off on his own and subverting the president, but on Tuesday, Milley laid out how such was simply not the case.
For starters, Milley did not make the calls without oversight, as he explained. Instead, the calls were made in direct coordination with staff members for the head of the Defense Department at the time, which contradicts Trump’s own self-confident perspective. In a recent interview, Trump asserted that “if it is actually true, which is hard to believe, that he would have called China and done these things and was willing to advise them of an attack or in advance of an attack, that’s treason.” Trump claimed in a separate statement that Milley “would have been dealing with his Chinese counterpart behind the President’s back,” if the disputed scenarios in question had actually played out.
Milley pointedly commented as follows at this week’s Senate hearing:
‘I’ve served this nation for 42 years. I spent years in combat, and I buried a lot of my troops who died while defending this country. My loyalty to this nation, its people, and the Constitution hasn’t changed and will never change as long as I have a breath to give. My loyalty is absolute, and I will not turn my back on the following.’
Getting into further specifics, Milley added as follows:
‘With respect to the Chinese calls, I routinely communicated with my counterpart General Li with the knowledge and coordination of civilian oversight. I am specifically directed to communicate with the Chinese by Department of Defense guidance, the policy dialogue system. These military-to-military communications at the highest level are critical to the security of the United States in order to deconflict military actions, manage crises, and prevent war between great powers that are armed with the world’s most deadliest weapons. The calls on 30 October and 8 January were coordinated before and after with Secretary Esper and Acting Secretary Miller’s staffs and the interagency.’
Later, Milley was questioned by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) as to why he hadn’t resigned in light of revelations about his advice getting — according to Cotton’s self-assured characterization — ignored by the president. Milley replied with the following:
‘As a senior military officer, resigning is a really serious thing. It’s a political act, if I’m resigning in protest. My job is to provide advice. My statutory responsibility is to provide legal advice, or best military advice, to the president… The president doesn’t have to agree with that advice. He doesn’t have to make those decisions just because we’re generals, and it would be an incredible act of political defiance for a commissioned officer to just resign because my advice is not taken. This country doesn’t want generals figuring out what orders we are going to accept and do or not.’
Watch Milley below:
Milley in response to Sen. Tom Common's question about why he hasn't resigned: "Resigning is a really serious thing. It's a political act, if I'm resigning in protest. My job is to provide advice." pic.twitter.com/2MCeC1F9zR
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 28, 2021