Top Trump officials: Milley calls undermined ‘whole of government’ approach to China

FPI / September 23, 2021


Former U.S. officials say the Trump administration’s approach to China would have been “completely undermined” by Gen. Mark Milley’s unauthorized phone calls to China’s top general in which, according to a new book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Milley said he would inform China of any U.S. attack.

Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

A senior Trump White House official told security correspondent Bill Gertz that the phone calls by Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who was held over as chairman by Team Biden, are troubling because they were unknown to President Donald Trump, White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other senior officials closely involved in China policy and strategy at the time.

The senior official also said reports that the general made the calls in response to U.S. intelligence reports of the Chinese incorrectly fearing a U.S. nuclear strike were unknown to the president and his senior advisers, according to Gertz’s report for the Washington Times.

“No one was aware of any such intelligence, including from the PDB,” the senior official said, using the acronym for the President’s Daily Brief, the highly classified report that has limited distribution to the president and his most senior aides.

“We were engaged in a whole-of-government approach to China that included pressing Beijing on many fronts,” the senior official said. “These phone calls would have completely undermined that.”

Christopher Miller, the acting defense secretary at the time, told reporters he did not authorize, nor would he ever authorize, Milley’s calls to communist China. Miller called on Gen. Milley to resign immediately.

“Other senior officials involved in the most sensitive details of China policy also indicated that they were unaware of the calls until the news reports were published,” according to the Sept. 15 report.

Matt Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser at the time, and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell were also out of the loop on the calls.

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