KEY POINTS

  • Christopher Miller called for Gen. Milley’s resignation, describing his action as “insubordination.”
  • A new book has alleged that Milley called his Chinese counterpart after the Capitol riots.
  • Gen. Milley’s spokesman said the calls were part of the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman’s duties.

The controversy surrounding a call made by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to his Chinese counterpart barely days after the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riots, as revealed in a new book, got thicker after Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller said he had not authorized the call. The call, made behind then-President Donald Trump's back, has drawn the ire of conservaties and even other commentators. 

Miller's comments came following revelations in excerpts from “Peril,” written by The Washington Post’s veteran journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, in which it was alleged that Milley contacted Chinese Gen. Li Zuocheng twice over fears that Trump would spark a war with China. 

In transcripts from the Jan. 8 call, which were obtained by Woodward and Costa, Milley told Li that the U.S. government was “100% steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.”

Reacting to the news of the call, Miller said in a statement to Fox News that he “did not and would never authorize” the general to hold “secret” calls with his Chinese counterpart. Miller, who served under former president Trump, called for Milley’s resignation “immediately,” describing the call as a “disgraceful and unprecedented act of insubordination.”

Miller further explained that Milley’s role as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was to provide military advice to the president, adding that the individual in the position “by law is prohibited from exercising executive authority to command forces." Miller also noted that the U.S. armed forces has “operated under the inviolable principle of civilian control of the military” since it was established.

According to the book, Milley had made an earlier call to Li in October, before the 2020 presidential election, becasue he feared Trump would spark a war over tensions in the South China Sea. In that call, Milley assured Li that “the American government is stable and everything is going to be O.K.” 

“Peril” also revealed transcripts from a phone call between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Milley, wherein the former referred to Trump as a “dictator,” adding that the former president “should have been arrested on the spot” over his role in inciting the Capitol riots that killed five people. “I agree with you on everything,” Milley responded.

Fox reported that it has spoken with multiple people who witnessed the phone conversations between Milley and Li.  An official told the outlet that the calls “were not secret.” The outlet added that there were about 15 people present when Milley spoke with Li. Sources told the outlet that then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who was fired by Trump in November 2020, and Miller, who assumed the acting role shortly after Esper's removal, were well-informed about the two calls. Miller denied his knowledge of the January phone call, which took place when he was acting defense secretary.

In an interview with NPR, Post national political reporter Isaac Stanley-Becker said Milley’s decision to call Li in October 2020 followed his review of “intelligence suggesting that the Chinese believed the U.S. was preparing to attack at that time.” Stanley-Becker has read “Peril.”

Milley’s spokesman Col. Dave Bulter said in a statement Wednesday that the general did not violate protocol when he called Li, adding the communications were part of the general’s responsibilities “conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability.”

“Peril” is available on Amazon Kindle, while the hardcover version will be released on Sept. 21.

National Counterterrorism Center Director Christopher Miller was named as acting US Secretary of Defense after President Donald Trump fired Mark Esper National Counterterrorism Center Director Christopher Miller was named as acting US Secretary of Defense after President Donald Trump fired Mark Esper Photo: POOL / JOSHUA ROBERTS