FILE PHOTO: Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army General Mark Milley holds a news briefing at Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., August 18, 2021. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
September 14, 2021
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top U.S. general secretly called his Chinese counterpart twice in the final months of Donald Trump’s term in office over concerns the U.S. president could spark a war with China as his potential election loss loomed and in its aftermath, according to a newspaper report on Tuesday.
U.S. General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called General Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army on Oct. 30, 2020 – four days before the presidential election – and again on Jan. 8, two days after Trump supporters led a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol, The Washington Post reported.
In the calls, Milley sought to assure Li that the United States was stable and not going to attack and, if there were to be an attack, that he would alert his counterpart ahead of time, the report said.
The report was based on “Peril,” a new book by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, which they said relied on interviews with 200 sources and is due to be released next week.
Milley’s office declined to comment. Representatives for Trump could not immediately be reached.
Trump had named Milley to the top military post in 2018 but began to criticize him, as he did many of his appointees and former staffers, after he lost the November election to Democrat Joe Biden and left the White House on Jan. 20.
Milley was motivated to contact Beijing the second time in part due to a Jan. 8 call with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had asked the general what safeguards were in place to prevent an “unstable president” from launching a nuclear strike, the report said, citing a transcript of the call.
“He’s crazy. You know he’s crazy,” Pelosi told Milley in the call, according to the report.
According to the cited call transcript, the general replied, “I agree with you on everything.”
(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Susan Heavey; Editing by Bill Berkrot)