Biden has “complete confidence” in Milley, who is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday.
A day earlier, reports from an upcoming book by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa claimed that Milley – believing then-President Donald Trump to be suffering from mental decline – called her Chinese counterpart on two occasions, in late 2020 and early 2021, to avoid a possible military conflict with China.
Excerpts from the book Peril, first revealed by the Washington Post, indicate that Milley assured Li Zuocheng, China’s top general, that the United States would not attack China and that he would inform him. of an attack if it were to occur.
“If we’re going to attack, I’ll call you ahead. It won’t be a surprise, ”Milley said in the book, based on hundreds of interviews.
Tuesday’s reports prompted Republicans to ask Milley to step down, with Trump accusing the top general of treason.
But the White House reported that Biden was standing by Milley’s side. “The President has complete confidence in his leadership, his patriotism and his loyalty to our Constitution,” Psaki said.
Later that day, Biden himself told reporters outside the White House: “I have great faith in General Milley. “
Milley’s office issued its own statement denying any wrongdoing by the general and stressing that he regularly contacted his foreign counterparts.
“His calls with the Chinese and others in October and January were consistent with these reassured duties and responsibilities in order to maintain strategic stability,” said Dave Butler, spokesperson for Milley.
“All of the president’s calls to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Defense Department and the interagency. “
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby also said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had “complete confidence” in Milley.
Kirby declined to discuss the details of the alleged revelations in the book, but said it was “not atypical” for the senior US general to communicate with foreign military leaders, including those in Russia and the United States. China.
“It’s not just common, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is expected to continue having conversations with his counterparts,” Kirby said.
But many Republicans are already attacking Milley, accusing him of violating the command of elected civilian leaders over the military.
Senator Marco Rubio called on Biden to “immediately fire” Milley, who was appointed by Trump in 2018. He called Milley’s conduct a “dangerous precedent.”
“It threatens to tear apart our nation’s long-standing tenet of civilian control over the military,” Rubio wrote in a letter to Biden.
Senator Rand Paul, a Trump ally, called for a speedy investigation against the general.
“Milley was not elected president. I can’t even tell you how incredibly dangerous it is, ”Paul told Conservative host Glenn Beck on Wednesday.
In an interview with Newsmax on Tuesday, Trump berated Milley and dismissed the idea that he was considering ordering an attack on China.
“It’s a statement of betrayal and I can’t tell you how many people have called about it,” Trump said of Milley’s appeal to Li. “It’s a shame. “
For its part, the White House has confirmed that it will not take any action against Milley based on information revealed in the Post’s Journalists’ Book. Psaki said Biden thinks Milley is a “man of honor”.
“He knows General Milley, and he’s been working alongside him for almost eight months, and that’s what gives the president confidence in him,” Psaki said. “We will leave it to Congress and others to ask the questions they wish to ask. ”