US military chief denies having circumvented Trump’s authority in contact with China

US Chief of Staff General Mark Milley on Wednesday refuted the accusation that he extrapolated his legal authority when, twice, spoke with Chinese military officials to assert that the US was not planning an attack on the Asian country.

Through a spokesman, the American military chief said that he acted only to ensure strategic stability, without taking on attributions that, in its origin, belonged to the then president, Republican Donald Trump.

The revelation of Milley’s two conversations with Li Zuocheng, chief of the Chinese General Staff, in October and January, was made in the book “Peril” (danger), by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, to be released next year week. On Tuesday (14), the American newspaper The Washington Post, for which reporters work, provided excerpts of the material.

According to the investigation made for the work, which involved more than 200 interviews, Milley tried to appease the relationship with the Chinese and, internally, he even revised procedures for the launching of nuclear weapons – in order to ensure that such a decision, even though it is the president’s assignment, it had to go through him. The general claimed to fear a deterioration in Trump’s mental state.

Milley’s spokesman, Colonel Dave Butler, said in a statement that the chief of staff communicates regularly with counterparts around the world, “including China and Russia.”

The text says: “These conversations remain vital to improving the mutual cooperation of US national security interests, reducing tensions, providing clarity, and avoiding unintended consequences or conflicts.”

Butler further stated that all of Milley’s calls to his counterparts, including those reported in the book, are coordinated with the Department of Defense and US intelligence agencies and that the general “continues to act within his legal authority and his oath to the Constitution. “.

In a statement released Tuesday, Trump called the story revealed by Washington Post reporters “fabricated” and said that, if true, General Milley should be tried for treason. “Just for the record, I never thought of attacking China,” he amended. The behind-the-scenes of the Republican government is the subject of two other books by Woodward —“Fear” (fear) e “Rage” (anger).

Milley was appointed by Trump as chief of staff in 2018, but he began to come under criticism from the Republican, as well as other high-ranking officials, after the elections that raised Joe Biden to the presidency in November 2020.

After the book’s revelations, on Wednesday, Republican senator Marco Rubio asked that the general be fired, but the demand received low support from other congressmen, especially the Democrats. In a letter addressed to Biden, the senator alleged that the actions reported show that Milley performed “a betrayal by leaking confidential information to the Communist Party of China“.

The president, for his part, said he had “complete confidence in Milley’s leadership.” The White House rejected criticism of the general arguing that the actions were understandable given that he was working with Trump, who had incited the invasion of Capitol Hill in January —One of Milley’s calls to the Chinese Chief of Staff was made two days after the episode at the headquarters of the US Legislature.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki echoed Biden’s earlier short statement. “The current president [Biden], who follows the Constitution, who is not fomenting an insurrection and who follows the rule of law, has full confidence in General Milley, who will continue to serve in his post.”

Chinese suspicions about a possible American attack, according to the Washington Post reporters, would have arisen after tensions with the US in the South China Sea —Beijing’s main trade route— and gained breath by Trump’s rhetorical attacks against the country.

Figures like a Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and the current director of the CIA (American intelligence agency), Gina Haspel, would have agreed with Milley’s assessments, according to which Trump was unstable. “We are on the way to a right-wing coup,” Haspel is said to have said, according to conversations reported in the book.

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