US President Joe Biden expressed “complete confidence” in the US Supreme Court after revelations that he spoke to his Chinese counterpart twice amid concerns over the mental state of then-President Donald Trump.
Biden pushed back Republican calls to fire Secretary-General Mark Milley for allegedly undermining military control of the military in talks in October and January last year when Trump refused to accept his election loss to the Democrats.
“The president has complete confidence in his leadership, his patriotism and his loyalty to our constitution,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
Milley insisted that his talks with Chinese General Li Zuocheng, revealed on Tuesday in excerpts from a new book by Washington investigative reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, were a normal part of his duties.
“The President of the Joint Chiefs of Staff regularly communicates with Chiefs of Defense around the world, including with China and Russia,” said Milley’s spokesman Colonel Dave Butler in a statement.
“His talks with the Chinese and others in October and January were in line with those duties and responsibilities that provided security for maintaining strategic stability.”
The Woodward-Costa book, “Peril,” describes concerns among Milley and other top national security officials between October last year and January 20 that Trump, annoyed by his defeat, could start a conflict with China or Iran.
It also reports that Pentagon officials understood that China feared a US attack and possibly read wrongdoing from the United States, as a planned military exercise, in preparation for it.
To alleviate the Chinese, the book said, without Trump knowing it, Milley called Li to assure him that the United States was not planning action, and that the political unrest was just the “sloppy” face of democracy.
Nevertheless, the book said, as tensions in Washington grew over Trump’s attempt in early January to retain power, Milley called his deputies together and told them to make sure he was informed if the president was trying to fire a nuclear weapon.
Faced with Republican accusations that Milley is using the president’s power over the US nuclear arsenal, Butler said the meeting was simply “to remind uniformed leaders in the Pentagon of the long-established and robust procedures” for nuclear weapons.
“General Milley continues to act and advise within his authority in the legal tradition of civilian control over the military and his oath to the Constitution,” Butler said.
After excerpts from the book were published, senior Republican Senator Marco Rubio demanded in a letter that Biden fire the general.
Rubio claimed that Milley “worked to actively undermine the incumbent commander of the United States Armed Forces and considered a treacherous leak of classified information to the Chinese Communist Party.”
“These acts of General Milley show a clear lack of sound judgment, and I urge you to dismiss him immediately,” he said.
Trump struck on Tuesday, calling Milley a gross epithet and blaming him for the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August.
“I guess he would be convicted of treason by having to do with his Chinese counterpart behind the president’s back,” Trump said in a statement.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)