Joe Biden on Wednesday endorsed the top US military officer, saying he had “great confidence” in the general who, according to a new book, took steps to prevent outgoing Republican President Donald Trump from “going rogue” and launching a nuclear war or an attack on China.
Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also defended the phone calls he made to his Chinese military counterpart in the tumultuous final months of Trump’s presidency, noting that the hitherto secret talks were in keeping with his duties.
“I have great confidence in General Milley,” Biden said at the White House when asked if the military leader had done the right thing by intervening.
Moments earlier, White House press secretary Jen Psaki had told reporters that Biden, the Democratic president who defeated Trump last November, supports Milley’s “leadership, patriotism, and fidelity to our constitution.” .
Later, in a written statement, Milley’s spokesman, Col. Dave Butler, said the top general acted within his authority as the highest-ranking uniformed adviser to the president and the secretary of defense.
“His calls with the Chinese and others in October and January were in keeping with these duties and responsibilities, conveying reassurance to maintain strategic stability,” Butler said, adding that “all calls from the president to his counterparts, including those reported, they are staffed, coordinated, and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency. “
Milley’s phone calls were described in excerpts that emerged Tuesday from the upcoming book Danger by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
The book says that Milley told General Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army in China that he would warn his counterpart in the event of a US attack.
“General Li, I want to assure you that the US government is stable and that everything is going to be fine … we are not going to attack,” Milley told Li four days before the November 2020 elections, according to the book.
The idea of a general intervening unilaterally to secretly prevent or stop the actions of the president of the United States, who is the commander-in-chief of the American armed forces, is extraordinary. Milley served Trump as chairman of the joint chiefs and then continued in office after Biden entered the White House.
Psaki on Wednesday urged Americans to consider the “key context” in which Milley allegedly took these steps, referring to Trump’s efforts to reverse Biden’s victory in an election qualified as one of the safest in US history by officials at the local and national level.
“The president has worked closely with President Milley for almost eight months,” Psaki said. “His experience with him has been that he is a patriot.”
The revelations have prompted some Republicans to call for Milley’s resignation, accusing him of undermining the constitution by trying to put up barriers to Trump’s behavior during his final days in office.
Woodward, who broke the Watergate stories that ultimately led to Richard Nixon’s resignation as president in 1974, and Costa to portray Milley was “sure that Trump had suffered a serious mental decline after the election.”
Milley reportedly thought the president had become “almost manic, yelling at officials and building his own alternate reality on endless electoral conspiracies.”
According to the authors, Milley was concerned that Trump might “become dishonest” and told senior staff: “You never know what the trigger for a president is.”
On Wednesday, Psaki drew a clear distinction between the general’s relationship with Trump, who incited a deadly insurrection in the United States Capitol on January 6 in hopes of nullifying Biden’s victory, and was indicted for it and his relationship with Biden.
“This current president, who follows the constitution, who does not foment an insurrection, who follows the rule of law, has complete confidence in and in President Milley to continue to carry out his role,” Psaki said.
Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio wrote to Biden asking him to “immediately fire General Milley” for leaking “classified information on US military operations.”
But regarding those Republican criticisms of Milley, Psaki said: “I don’t think the president is seeking the guidance of members of Congress who stood by while the president of the United States and his party leader fomented an insurrection and many of were silent. “
Trump said Tuesday that Milley It should be tried for treason if the report was true, calling the general an “idiot”.
The Associated Press contributed reporting