The journalists who first reported on General Mark Milley’s secret calls to his counterpart in China have said they do not believe the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is guilty of treason nor was he “going rogue.”
Last week, excerpts from a new book by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa revealed that Milley spoke with People’s Liberation Army General Li Zuocheng on October 30, 2020, and January 8, 2021. Milley reportedly told Li during the initial call that he would give China a warning in the event of an attack, according to Woodward and Costa.
While the revelation was met with calls for Milley’s resignation from numerous Republicans, Woodward and Costa told Good Morning America on Monday that the chairman was not operating in “isolation.”
Asked if he believed Milley’s actions could be characterized as treason, Woodward said, “No, not at all.”
“He was not going rogue,” Costa added. “This is not someone working in isolation.”
Milley reportedly told the Chinese general that he wanted to assure him “that the American government is stable and everything is going to be OK.”
“We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you,” he said. “General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”
While the excerpts from the pair’s new book, Peril, said Milley made the calls because he was concerned about possible military action from then-President Trump during the final days of his presidency, defense officials have suggested that the calls were not made secret, in comments to Politico and Fox News. One senior defense official reportedly told Politico that the description of the first call is “grossly mischaracterized.”
Woodward and Costa said Monday that Milley briefed several officials, including the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Gina Haspel, and the director of the National Security Agency, Paul Nakasone.
Milley defended the calls in a statement to the Associated Press last week, saying they were “perfectly within the duties and responsibilities” of his position and that similar conversations are “routine,” undertaken “to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case in order to ensure strategic stability.”
However, he said he believed it would be “best that I reserve my comments on the record until I do that in front of the lawmakers who have the lawful responsibility to oversee the U.S. military.”
“I’ll go into any level of detail Congress wants to go into in a couple of weeks,” Milley said, referring to his scheduled testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 28, along with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, on the withdrawal from Afghanistan.