Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley admitted Wednesday during a hearing that he told his Chinese counterpart he would give him a call if the United States were about to attack.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) grilled Milley during the House Armed Services Committee hearing on whether allegations in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s book were true that Milley had told his Chinese counterpart that he would notify him if the U.S. were about to attack ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
According to the book, Milley told Gen. Li Zuocheng, whom he had known for five years, during a “top secret, back-channel” phone call on October 30, 2020, to allay China’s alleged fears that Trump would attack China:
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. It’s not going to be a bolt out of the blue.
US Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley (L) introduces members of his staff to China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Li Zuocheng (R) during a welcome ceremony at the Bayi Building in Beijing on August 16, 2016. (MARK SCHIEFELBEIN/AFP via Getty Images)
Milley admitted to Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) on Tuesday that he spoke to Woodward for the book, as well as other journalists for their books, to make sure things were accurate.
Hartzler asked Milley had he really told his Chinese counterpart that he would be notified.
So this is a longer conversation. It’s a VTC [ video teleconference ] with General Li, and there’s a body of intelligence that leads up to this that was persuasive to Secretary Esper, me, and many, many others that the Chinese thought wrongly that the United States is going to attack them. I am certain, guaranteed certain, that President Trump had no intent to attack and it was my task to make sure I communicated that.
As part of that conversation, I said, “General Li, there’s not going to be a war. There is not going to be an attack between great powers. And if there was, the tensions would build up. There’d be calls going back and forth from all kinds of senior officials.” I said, “Hey, General Li, I’ll probably give you a call, but we’re not going to attack you. Trust me, we’re not going to attack you.” These are two great powers and I am doing my best to transmit the president’s intent, President Trump’s intent, to ensure that the American people are protected from an incident that could escalate.
Hartzler told Milley, “I understand your intent, but I think you are articulating that — that you would tell him you would give him a call, I think, is worthy of your resignation. I just think that’s against our country that you would give our No. 1 adversary that information and tell him that.”