Woodward: Milley was 'setting in motion sensible precautions' with calls to China

Woodward: Milley was 'setting in motion sensible precautions' with calls to China
© Greg Nash

Journalist Bob Woodward is defending Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for calls he placed to his counterpart in China in the final days of former President TrumpDonald TrumpGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Super PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE's time in office during which Milley said that he would give a warning before any attack on China by the U.S. 

"People say he's trying to take over some of the commander in chief's power. No," Woodward said Tuesday during an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "What he is doing is setting in motion sensible precautions, if you look at the procedures which are top secret, he's supposed to be involved and he's just saying we're going to adhere to that process to protect the country from ... the kind of, we've lost sight of what nuclear weapons can do." 

Woodward, along with co-author Robert Costa,  reveal in their new book "Peril" that Milley told his Chinese counterpart: “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.”

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They also write that Milley conducted secret meetings at the Pentagon after the Jan. 6 attack by Trump supporters on the U.S. Capitol to make sure Trump could not order a military attack. 

The revelations have become a lightning rod on the right, and spurred some GOP members of Congress to call for Milley's resignation. Trump, in a statement issued following Woodward and Costa's reporting, suggested the chairman was guilty of "treason." 

Last week, Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesperson Col. Dave Butler confirmed Milley's calls to China and said his contacts with foreign counterparts "remain vital to improving mutual understanding of U.S. national security interests, reducing tensions, providing clarity and avoiding unintended consequences or conflict.”

“The meeting regarding nuclear weapons protocols was to remind uniformed leaders in the Pentagon of the long-established and robust procedures in light of media reporting on the subject,” Butler added. 

Woodward on Tuesday compared Milley's response to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to that of Republican leadership in Congress, which he reported privately complained about Trump's support for unfounded conspiracies about election fraud.  

"You know, McConnell, McCarthy, Attorney General Barr, they're all kind of looking out for their own positions," the veteran journalist said, referring to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Pelosi says GOP senators 'voted to aid and abet' voter suppression for blocking revised elections bill Manchin insists he hasn't threatened to leave Democrats MORE (R-Ky.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyCheney reveals GOP's Banks claimed he was Jan. 6 panel's ranking member House votes to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress GOP memo urges lawmakers to blame White House 'grinches' for Christmas delays MORE (R-Calif.) and former Attorney General William BarrBill BarrMeadows hires former deputy AG to represent him in Jan. 6 probe: report Why it's time for conservatives to accept the 2020 election results and move on Bannon's subpoena snub sets up big decision for Biden DOJ MORE.

"General Milley took action. He put himself ... he was in this moment where he had practical responsibility," the veteran journalist said. "What were the calamities that could befall the United States, a war particularly with China, the use of nuclear weapons ... it is unthinkable."