Gen. Mark Milley said he was conducting the duties of his office, and not undermining presidential authority when he contacted Chinese Gen. Li Zuocheng, assuring him there would not be an armed conflict between the two superpowers. 

In the new book "Peril," by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Milley is described as being “fearful that [then-President Donald] Trump might spark war.” Excerpts from the book were detailed in the Washington Post.

Milley and Li exchanged secret phone calls in October and January. Woodward and Costa believe this was due to tensions over military exercises in the South China Sea, which increased due to Trump’s anti-Chinese rhetoric on the campaign trail and for blaming them for the pandemic.

“General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be O.K.,” Milley told him. “We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.”

In the second call, Milley told Li, “We are 100% steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.”

In a phone call that Milley had with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the pair concurred that Trump was unstable.

Trump and his allies believed Milley’s behavior was treasonous and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., wrote a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to dismiss Milley for undermining the commander-in-chief, saying Milley's actions were “an act of treachery that posed a grave risk to our security and national order.”

The Pentagon confirmed that Milley spoke to U.S. officers on how to handle orders to deliver a nuclear strike in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol after the election was certified by Congress. 

According to the Post's political reporter Isaac Stanley-Becker, Milley said Trump had the authority to decide on the action, and if he did, he wanted to be notified so he could prevent it.

Trump has denied planning an attack on China.