Ex-Joint Chiefs Chair Defends Milley’s Efforts To Keep Trump From Dragging US Into War With China

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 19:From left, Thomas Pickering, retired U.S. ambassador and Chairman of the Benghazi Accountability Review Board, Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and current Vice-Chairman of the Benghazi Accountability Review Board, Mark Sullivan, former director of the U.S. Secret Service, and Todd Keil, Former Asst. Secretary for Infrastructure Protection with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, testifyduring a House Oversight Committee hearing entitled 'Reviews of the Benghazi Attack and Unanswered Questions,' in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, September 19, 2013 in Washington, DC. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) is continuing to lead the GOP investigation of the Sept. 11, 2012, assaults that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 19: Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and current Vice-Chairman of the Benghazi Accountability Review Board, testifies during a House Oversight Committee he... WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 19: Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and current Vice-Chairman of the Benghazi Accountability Review Board, testifies during a House Oversight Committee hearing entitled 'Reviews of the Benghazi Attack and Unanswered Questions,' in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, September 19, 2013 in Washington, DC. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) is continuing to lead the GOP investigation of the Sept. 11, 2012, assaults that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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September 19, 2021 5:00 p.m.

Former Joint Chiefs of Staff chair Mike Mullen on Sunday defended the reported conversations Gen. Mark Milley had with his counterparts in China in an effort to keep then-President Trump from dragging the U.S. into war with the country.

In a new book by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Milley reportedly contacted Chinese officials in October and January of last year to tamp down any concerns that the U.S. was planning to strike the country. Milley also spoke with senior military officials in the days after the Jan. 6 insurrection to ensure he was kept in the loop if Trump ordered any type of nuclear strike.

Unsurprisingly, Trump and his allies excoriated Milley for his reported actions. Trump’s allies in Congress are demanding Milley’s resignation and have echoed the former president’s accusations of treason against Milley.

Asked about Milley reportedly saying that his reassuring China that the U.S. won’t strike is “routine” during an interview on ABC News, Mullen signaled that he agreed.

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“Having communications with counterparts around the world is routine,” said Mullen, who was chair of the Joint Chiefs from 2007 to 2011. Milley has served in that position since 2019.

Mullen added that the situation was “overseen” and listened to by many others in the interagency process so therefore Milley “wasn’t out there by himself.”

Mullen went on to point out that what he found most “worrisome” about Milley’s reported remarks is China potentially interpreting them as a sign that an attack from the U.S. was possible.

“It’s very clear (Milley) had good intel that this was the case. But the misread by China is also worrisome,” Mullen said. “And it speaks to the need to have these open communications, so that we don’t miscalculate.”

After saying that he found it “fairly routine” and that it wasn’t “abnormal at all” for Milley to go to the National Military Command Center to request that he is made aware of potential nuclear strikes, Mullen said it seemed that Milley was put in a difficult situation towards the end of Trump’s presidency.

“I don’t know if anybody’s been in a more difficult situation than Mark Milley. And I don’t know the specifics of it per se, but certainly that kind of situation, as it’s depicted, would make it that much more difficult, and you’re on this line between the Constitution and serving the president, and I sense he was there quite a bit,” Mullen said.

“I know (Milley) well enough to know he would really try to do the best thing for our country and I think he did that,” Mullen said.

Watch Mullen’s remarks below:

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