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Gen. Mark Milley defends calls to Chinese at end of Trump presidency

Gen. Mark Milley
Posted at 12:02 PM, Sep 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-28 13:26:46-04

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has told Congress he knew former President Donald Trump wasn't planning to attack China, and it was his job to reassure the Chinese of that fact in phone calls that have triggered outrage from some lawmakers.

Army Gen. Mark Milley delivered a full-throated defense of two calls he made to his Chinese counterpart, saying he was responding to "concerning intelligence" China was worried about a U.S. attack.

Milley says his task was "to de-escalate."

"I know, I am certain, that President Trump did not intend to attack the Chinese. ... And it was my directed responsibility by the secretary to convey that intent to the Chinese," Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. "My task at that time was to de-escalate. My message again was consistent: Stay calm, steady, and de-escalate. We are not going to attack you.

Details of Milley's calls were first aired in excerpts from the book "Peril" by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

The revelation of Milley's calls has prompted calls to resign from some lawmakers. Trump himself called Milley a "complete nutjob" and claimed that he was never told about the calls.

Milley made his remarks Tuesday during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing regarding the U.S. military's withdrawal from Afghanistan.