President Biden on Wednesday expressed his full confidence in Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, despite a report that he circumvented then-President Donald Trump to intervene with other countries.
“I have great confidence in General Milley,” Mr. Biden told reporters.
Earlier, White House press secretary Jen Psaki also vouched for the president’s continued backing of the embattled general.
“The president knows Gen. Milley. He has been chairman of the joint chiefs for almost eight months of his presidency,” Ms. Psaki told reporters at a press briefing. “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.”
Questions about Gen. Milley‘s standing surfaced after it was revealed in a new book that he secretly called his Chinese counterpart in the final days of the Trump administration with reassurances the U.S. would not attack the country.
The calls were detailed in the forthcoming book “Peril” by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
The book describes how Gen. Milley learned in October that the Chinese were concerned that Mr. Trump would launch a preemptive missile strike against their country because he was losing the 2020 election and his rhetoric against China was becoming more inflamed.
Gen. Milley called a Chinese military commander on Jan. 8, 2021, according to the book, two days after a mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed U.S. Capitol to stop congress from certifying the election for Mr. Biden.
Ms. Psaki said it’s important to keep Gen. Milley‘s actions in context, pointing to Mr. Trump‘s erratic behavior after it was clear he lost the election.
“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,” she said, calling it “one of the darkest days in our nation’s history.”
She also cited reports and quotes from other former Trump officials she says questioned his stability and his “suitability to oversee the national security of the United States.”
Col. Dave Butler, the spokesman for the joint chiefs of staff, did not deny the book’s allegations but argued that Gen. Milley acted with his responsibilities.
“The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs regularly communicates with Chiefs of Defense across the world, including with China and Russia,” he said in a statement. “These conversations remain vital to improving mutual understanding of U.S. national security interests, reducing tensions, providing clarity and avoiding unintended consequences of conflict.
“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,” Mr. Butler said.