Trump claims Biden won't fire Milley for fear of him 'spilling the dirty secrets' on Afghanistan
Former President Donald Trump said President Joe Biden has not taken action against Gen. Mark Milley because the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman may harbor "dirty secrets" about the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
According to a forthcoming book, Milley promised to give his Chinese counterpart advance notice if Trump ordered a strike against China. The reporting ignited a maelstrom of calls from Republicans and military veterans for the top military official to resign or be fired.
A day after Trump said Milley's actions as described in Peril , written by Watergate sleuth Bob Woodward and fellow Washington Post journalist Robert Costa, amounted to treason , he issued another statement hours after the Pentagon denied any wrongdoing and Biden said he maintains "great confidence" in Milley. This time, Trump tied the controversy to Afghanistan.
"The way Milley and the Biden Administration handled the Afghanistan withdrawal, perhaps the most embarrassing moment in our Country’s history, would not exactly instill fear in China," Trump said in a statement released by his Save America leadership PAC. "Milley is a complete nutjob! The only reason Biden will not fire or court-martial Milley is because he doesn’t want him spilling the dirty secrets on Biden’s deadly disaster in Afghanistan."
Thirteen U.S. service members died in an explosion last month as they assisted with frantic evacuations following a swift Taliban takeover of the country and the fall of the U.S.-backed Afghan government. The Pentagon is also facing scrutiny for a U.S. drone strike that killed an Afghan man who was longtime employee at an American humanitarian organization and beloved by his colleagues , along with several children . Milley called it a "righteous strike," and said "at least one of the people that were killed was an ISIS facilitator."
According to excerpts from Peril published on Tuesday, Milley was concerned Trump might order a strike that would lead to war with China, and he attempted to avert armed conflict with China in a pair of secret calls to Chinese Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army just before the 2020 election and after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
“General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise,” Milley said to Li in one of the conversations, the book said.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby repeatedly declined to answer specific questions about the phone calls between Milley and Li. However, he said such conversations with foreign counterparts are within the chairman's role, echoing a statement by a Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman, who confirmed the calls took place .
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki dismissed demands for the president to fire Milley.
Milley is expected to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee about Afghanistan on Sept. 28.
"I don't think the president is looking for the guidance of members of Congress who stood by while the president of the United States and the leader of their party fomented an insurrection and many of them were silent," she said.
The news outlets that obtained the first excerpts from Peril said the calls between Milley and Li were "secret," a characterization that sources told Politico were exaggerated . The calls were coordinated with then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper's office, sources told Fox News , which also reported it learned 15 people were present for the calls.
Trump said in his statement on Wednesday he was not informed of the calls.
"Milley never told me about calls being made to China. From what I understand, he didn’t tell too many other people either. He put our Country in a very dangerous position but President Xi knows better, and would’ve called me," said Trump, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
A day earlier, Trump denied ever thinking about attacking China. Trump also said he considers Woodward and "his cohorts" to be "extremely dishonorable people."
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