President Biden is standing by Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, despite accusations he committed treason during the final weeks of the Trump administration by reassuring his Chinese counterpart that then-President Trump would not attack Beijing.
“I have great confidence in Gen. Milley,” Biden responded to reporters on Wednesday, moments after press secretary Jen Psaki appeared to excuse Milley’s alleged conduct as acceptable in the “context of this period and time in history” given that he did so while Trump was in his final days as commander in chief and amid the backdrop of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
“What I can assure you all is that [President Biden] knows General Milley, he has been chairman of the Joint Chiefs for almost eight months of his presidency, they’ve worked side by side through a range of international events, and the President has complete confidence in his leadership, his patriotism and his fidelity to our Constitution,” Psaki said when asked about the allegations against Milley in the forthcoming book “Peril” by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
The book says Milley told Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army that he would warn his counterpart in the event of a U.S. attack.
In a written statement issued minutes before Psaki’s press briefing, Gen. Milley’s spokesman, Col. Dave Butler, acknowledged the communications with the Chinese, saying the top US military officer acted within his authority as the most senior uniformed adviser to the president and to the secretary of defense.
“The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs regularly communicates with Chiefs of Defense across the world, including with China and Russia. These conversations remain vital to improving mutual understanding of U.S. national security interests, reducing tensions, providing clarity and avoiding unintended consequences or conflict,” the statement said.
“His calls with the Chinese and others in October and January were in keeping with these duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability,” Butler said. “All calls from the chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency.”
Psaki in her defense of Milley’s actions, which have been labeled as treasonous amid calls for him to step down, said: “Since you gave me the opportunity I just wanted to add, I think it’s important to consider some of the context, context of this period and time, of time in history that we’re discussing and is outlined in portions of this book. The outgoing president of the United States, during this period of time, fomented unrest, leading to an insurrection and an attack on our nation’s capital, on Jan. 6 which we’ve all, you all have covered extensively, of course, one of the darkest days in our nation’s history,” Psaki charged of Trump, seeming to make a moral equivocation for Milley’s surreptitious calls to the Chinese.
“It’s the obligation of every chairman of the Joint Chiefs to follow constitutional order to prevent unlawful military action, that’s what the president believes,” Psaki noted.