The country’s top military officer on Tuesday isn’t commenting on reports that he went around a president he considered erratic to reassure officials in China that President Trump wasn’t planning to launch an attack against them.
The allegations come from “Peril,” a new book from Washington Post staffers Bob Woodward and Robert Costa that documents the final days of President Trump’s tenure in office and the concerns about his behavior by Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The authors say that Gen. Milley spoke to his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army, in a pair of secret phone calls to let him know that the U.S. would not strike. The first occurred four days before the 2020 presidential election and the second took place two days after the siege of the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump mobs, according to reports by The Washington Post.
According to the book, Gen. Milley reviewed intelligence indicating the Chinese believed the U.S. was going to launch an attack due to Mr. Trump’s antagonistic rhetoric and military exercises in the South China Sea.
“General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be OK,” Gen. Milley told him, according to the Post. “We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.”
The book said Gen. Milley touted his rapport with Gen. Li and said he would even give him advanced warning in the event the U.S. ever did launch a strike against China.
“General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re ever going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise,” the Post reported, citing the book.
Gen. Milley was reportedly certain that President Trump had a mental breakdown after the election and was obsessed with conspiratorial theories about why he lost. The authors wrote that Gen. Milley was worried the president could “go rogue” in his final days.
“You never know what a president’s trigger point is,” Gen. Milley told his senior staff, according to CNN.
Gen. Milley went so far as to instruct senior officials in the National Military Command Center, the Pentagon’s war room, not to take orders from anyone — including the president — unless he was involved.
“No matter what you are told, you do the procedure. You do the process. And I’m part of that procedure,” Gen. Milley told the officers, according to the book.
The revelations have already sparked some blowback against Gen. Milley, who remains in his post at the Pentagon under President Biden. Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, fired off a letter to Mr. Biden demanding the general be dismissed if the book’s accounts are true.
“I do not need to tell of you the dangers posed by senior military officers leaking classified information on U.S. military operations, but I will underscore that such subversion undermines the president’s ability to negotiate and leverage one of this nation’s instruments of national power in his interactions with foreign nations,” Mr. Rubio wrote. “… A senior military officer interfering with that civilian-controlled process is simply unacceptable at best, and at worst, would cause ambiguity which could lead to war.”