“The calls on 30 October and 8 January were coordinated before and after with [Defense] Secretary [Mark T.] Esper and acting secretary [Christopher C.] Miller’s staffs and the interagency,” Milley said, explaining why he spoke to Gen. Li Zuocheng to assure him that the United States did not intend to attack China.
“I believe that was faithfully executing the intent of the president, 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,” Milley said.
Milley said that he briefed then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about the Jan. 8 call shortly after it occurred, and acting defense secretary Miller at a meeting about it soon afterward.
Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.) and other Republicans suggested Milley, a Capitol Hill-savvy general who has found himself in numerous political firestorms, was focused on burnishing his image when he should have been paying attention to what was happening in Afghanistan. Milley was also severely criticized for appearing with President Donald Trump after the violent clearing of protesters in front of the White House in the summer of 2020 and said afterward that he regretted his participation.
“It seems to me that you put a high priority on making sure that you were favorably portrayed by the D.C. press corps,” Hawley said in a hearing that was primarily focused on the withdrawal from Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul.
Milley said he would “welcome a thorough walk-through of all these events” to prove that not only were such contacts routine, but they also were sanctioned and reviewed by Trump’s senior advisers.
Milley also acknowledged speaking to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a conversation in which she asked about Trump’s ability to launch nuclear weapons. He said he explained to her that the president does not have the sole ability to do so and that he was in the “chain of communication” of officials that the president would need to consult.
He then reminded his staff of the nuclear protocols and procedures, he explained. “At no time was I attempting to change or influence the process, usurp authority or insert myself into the chain of command,” Milley said. “But I am expected to give my advice and ensure that the president is fully informed.”
“Were you accurately represented in these books?” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) asked.
“I haven’t read any of the books, so I don’t know,” Milley responded. “I’ve seen press reporting of it. I haven’t read the books.”
“Let’s have you read the books and then let us know if you are accurately portrayed,” Blackburn suggested.
“Happy to do that,” Milley replied.