Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley defended calls to his Chinese counterpart during a Tuesday hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Milley objected to media portrayals of him either betraying his loyalty to the United States or stepping outside the prescribed chain of command because he believed former President Donald Trump might pose a risk. (RELATED: Gen. Milley Says Allegedly Secret Phone Calls With China Were ‘Perfectly Within’ His ‘Duties And Responsibilites’)
Milley gave his opening statement on the withdrawal from Afghanistan, and as his time ran out, he asked for a brief extension in order to address some of the things he felt the media had gotten wrong.
“Mr. Chairman, I have served this nation for 42 years. I spent years in combat, and I buried a lot of my troops who died while defending this country,” Milley said once he was given the go ahead. “My loyalty to this nation, its people, and the Constitution hasn’t changed and will never change as long as I have a breath to give. My loyalty is absolute and I will not turn my back on the fallen.”
Milley went on to defend calls he made to his Chinese counter part, saying that intelligence suggested the Chinese were concerned about possible military action and he made a decision to communicate directly with the Chinese to reassure them there was no imminent threat.
“I know, I am certain, that President Trump did not intend to attack the Chinese. And it is my directed responsibility and it was my directed responsibility by the secretary to convey that intent to the Chinese,” Milley explained. “My task at that time was to de-escalate. My message again was consistent, stay calm, steady, and de-escalate. ‘We are not going to attack you.'”
Milley then addressed a conversation with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, during which he said she expressed concerns about Trump’s mental state and his ability to launch nuclear strikes.
“She was concerned and made very – made various personal references characterizing the president. I explained to her that the president is the sole nuclear launch authority and he doesn’t launch them alone. And that I am not qualified to determine the mental health of the president of the United States,” Milley said. “There are processes, protocols and procedures in place and I repeatedly assured her that there was no chance of an illegal, unauthorized or accidental launch.”
Milley went on to say that he had only ever given advice in the capacity that he was required to as a part of his role as a military adviser, and said that he had never and would never step outside the chain of command.
“My oath is to support the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic and I will never turn my back on that oath,” he said.