Biden says he has ‘complete confidence’ in Milley
President Biden on Wednesday said he has “great confidence” in Gen. Mark Milley to carry on as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff after a forthcoming book reported extraordinary measures Milley took at the end of the Trump administration to guard against a potential missile launch.
Biden reaffirmed his faith in the nation’s top ranking military officer during a meeting with business leaders on vaccine mandates Wednesday. His remarks come amid calls from some corners of Congress for Milley’s resignation.
“The president knows Gen. Milley. He has been chairman of the joint chiefs for almost eight months of his presidency,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a Wednesday 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.”
Psaki offered cover for Milley’s reported actions, citing Trump’s erratic behavior at the end of his first term in office.
“The outgoing president of the Untied States during this period of time fomented unrest leading to an insurrection and an attack on our nation’s capital on Jan. 6 … one of the darkest days in our nation’s history,” Psaki said.
Psaki cited past commentary and reporting from former Trump officials “questioning his stability, his behavior and his suitability to oversee the national security of the United States.”
Milley has come under criticism and faced calls from some Republicans to resign following reports from a new book from Washington Post reporters that details two calls to his Chinese counterpart in the final months of the Trump administration.
Bob Woodward and Robert Costa reported in “Peril” that Milley sought to reassure the Chinese that the U.S. would not carry out a military strike against China, and later told his counterpart that he would warn him of an impending strike.
The authors also reported Milley held a meeting with senior officers to review the procedures for launching nuclear weapons, insisting that he be involved in the approval of such a strike.
A spokesperson for the joint chiefs did not deny the reports in a statement Wednesday, but instead argued Milley acted within the scope of his responsibilities.
“The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs regularly communicates with Chiefs of Defense across the world, including with China and Russia,” Col. Dave Butler said. “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,” Butler said.
The reports of Milley’s actions prompted concerns from lawmakers and former national security officials who argued Milley operated outside the bounds of his authority.
“If this is true GEN Milley must resign. He usurped civilian authority, broke Chain of Command, and violated the sacrosanct principle of civilian control over the military,” tweeted Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who previously worked on the National Security Council in the Trump White House and was a focal point of Trump’s first impeachment.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called for Biden to fire Milley over his reported calls with Chinese officials.
“These actions by General Milley demonstrate a clear lack of sound judgement, and I urge you to dismiss him immediately,” Rubio said in a statement.
Multiple recent books have portrayed Milley as a gatekeeper of democratic norms in the final weeks of the Trump presidency and during the tumultuous summer of 2020 when unrest rocked multiple major cities after the killing of George Floyd.
Trump has attacked the general repeatedly since leaving office, and did so again Tuesday after the book excerpts first leaked. Trump said if the story were true, Milley should be tried for treason.
Updated at 2:01 p.m.
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