“General Li, you and I have known each other for five years now. If we’re going to attack, I’ll call you ahead. It won’t be a surprise, ”Milley reportedly said.
A defense official familiar with the appeals said the description was “grossly misinterpreted”.
The official said the calls were not unusual and the president was not frantically trying to reassure his counterpart.
People also said Milley wasn’t dishonest in making the call, as the book suggests. In fact, Milley sought permission from Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller before making the call, said a former senior defense official, who was in the room for the meeting. Milley also informed the secretary’s office after the call, the former official said.
“We discussed before and after his call with his Chinese counterpart,” the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity on a sensitive topic.
In an interview on Wednesday, Miller told POLITICO that Milley almost certainly told him he was going to call his Chinese counterpart, but he couldn’t recall getting a detailed reading of the call afterwards.
“Looking back, I imagine there was a superficial exchange between us and our staff about coordinating phone calls and messages for the day,” he said. “I don’t remember the details and it certainly wasn’t in a detailed or more formal way. It was more superficial / routine.
A spokesperson for the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that all of Milley’s calls with his counterparts, including those with the Chinese leadership, “are staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Defense Ministry and the agency.”
“His calls with the Chinese and others in October and January were consistent with these duties and responsibilities, reassuring in order to maintain strategic stability,” said Colonel Dave Butler.
Asked about the allegations during a press briefing on Wednesday, the White House spokesman said President Joe Biden believes Milley is a “patriot”.
“He has confidence in his leadership,” Psaki said.
Miller said that if the Woodward and Costa report is correct, “it would be wholly inappropriate and wholly contrary to civilian oversight of the military if he were to carry out foreign policy or national security activities of this nature, but I not sure if this call is accurate. I don’t know if it’s true or not.
He added that such a call would be “troubling enough for civilian oversight and would be truly unconstitutional if it were true.” … If the way the Woodward book describes the nature of the phone call is correct, it is not in line with the way we do things in our government and our republic.
In a statement, Woodward and Costa told POLITICO: “We maintain our relationship. “