Washington

Gen. Milley’s calls with China to be needled by Jan. 6 commission


The top lawmakers on the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 riot pledged Thursday to review the actions taken by senior Pentagon officials in the aftermath of the attack amid the fallout from new reporting detailing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley’s backchannel calls to his Chinese counterpart days after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol.

The ranking members on the Jan. 6 commission, Reps. Bennie G. Thompson, Mississippi Democrat, and Liz Cheney, Wyoming Republican, say they will review the details surrounding Gen. Milley’s actions as part of their inquiry.

“The facts surrounding steps taken at the Pentagon to protect our security both before and after January 6th are a crucial area of focus for the Select Committee,” the lawmakers said in a statement Thursday.

“Indeed, the Select Committee has sought records specifically related to these matters, and we expect the Department of Defense to cooperate fully with our probe,” they said. “Looking ahead, we will carefully evaluate all the facts based on first-hand testimony, contemporaneous documents, and other relevant materials.”

Their statement follows a glimpse earlier this week into a forthcoming book “Peril,” in which Bob Woodward and Robert Costa say Gen. Milley placed two separate backchannel calls to Peoples Liberation Army Gen. Li Zuocheng, including one just days after the Capitol riot.

In the calls, Gen. Milley offered his assurances that the U.S. would not strike China in response to Gen. Li’s apparent fears over President Trump’s mental state, according to the authors.

Messrs. Woodward and Costa said Gen. Milley also told Gen. Li he would warn him, should the U.S. prepare to strike.

Some lawmakers have questioned the veracity of the reporting, especially the latter claim.

The Pentagon has confirmed that Gen. Milley placed the calls outlined in the book, though Gen. Milley has not confirmed the details of the calls.

Late last month, the Jan. 6 committee issued a sweeping round of demands across the executive branch for documents related to the attack. The Department of Defense was included in their sweep.

Gen. Milley’s reputation among Republican lawmakers has become strained in recent months. Some on the right have branded the general as “woke” over his defense of diversity and inclusion and anti-extremism measures in the military.

The general’s relationship became further tarnished among some Republicans in the fallout from the chaotic withdraw from Afghanistan. 

The phone calls reported this week have damaged the relationship even further. Mr. Trump called for Gen. Milley to be arrested for treason, and several Republican lawmakers were among the chorus calling for his ouster.

The feelings are less strong in the Democratic Party. President Biden said amid the uproar over the calls Thursday that he maintains “great confidence” in Gen. Milley. 

The Jan. 6 committee, composed of seven Democrats and two Republicans, held its first hearing in late July. It has yet to schedule additional hearings.

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