Republican Indiana Rep. Jim Banks confronted Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley during a Wednesday hearing before the House Armed Services Committee.
Banks pressed Milley on the way journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa portrayed him in their new book, “Peril,” and the fact that it made him appear as though he had been driven in part by politics. (RELATED: ‘You Chose To Talk To Reporters Instead Of Us’: Rep. Turner Demands Transcript Of Gen. Milley’s Calls To China, Other Relevant Documents)
Banks began by asking Milley if he believed that politicization of the military of or military figures was dangerous, and he agreed that it was. Banks also asked Milley why he had agreed to speak with Woodward — and a number of others — who were writing books that were likely to be political in nature.
“I think it’s part of the senior official’s job to be transparent and I believe in a free press,” Milley replied.
“You told us yesterday that you hadn’t read the book or any of the political books that have come out. I don’t know how anybody could read the Bob Woodward book — I don’t know how you could read it and be greatly embarrassed about its contents especially how it’s related to you,” Banks continued. “Are you embarrassed by the book?”
“I haven’t read the book … yet,” Milley said.
“Were you embarrassed by the portrayals of the book?” Banks tried a different tack. “No doubt you’re aware?”
“Embarrassed, no,” Milley said, although he did voice concerns that the book had mischaracterized him as someone who was politicized or was willing to become politicized. “I’m trying to stay apolitical and I believe I am. That’s part of my professional ethic I’m trying to keep the military, the actual military out of actual domestic politics.”
“Do you regret speaking with Bob Woodward?” Banks asked.
“No. I think it’s important for me to speak to the media,” Milley repeated.
Banks went on to ask Milley about a specific claim in the book which referenced a conversation he had with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“We’ve already heard a little bit about the back-and-forth with you and Speaker Pelosi. In that conversation, you said in a phone call with Speaker Pelosi, she said, ‘Republicans are enablers of President Trump’s behavior. You know he’s crazy. He has been crazy for a long time.’ You replied, ‘I agree with you on everything.’ That was repeated three times in a prologue of the book ‘Peril’ that you told Speaker Pelosi you agree with her on everything. Is that an accurate portrayal of your recounting to Bob Woodward about those conversations?” Banks continued.
Milley said no, that he had agreed with Pelosi with her concerns that there should be procedures in place that would prevent a rogue nuclear missile launch — procedures that he assured her were already in place — but that in terms of former President Donald Trump’s mental health, he had told Pelosi that he was not equipped to evaluate that.
“You said you agreed with her,” Banks pressed again. “Either Bob Woodward is right or you’re right.”
“I’m not agreeing with her assessment of the president,” Milley objected.
Banks then asked about another section of the book where Woodward and Costa claimed that Milley had listed in a notebook several groups he thought might have played a role in the January 6 riot at Capitol Hill.
“It also included two conservative media outlets that you listed in your notebook, including the Epoch Times — which by the way is a news outlet that was founded by critics of the Chinese Communist Party — and Newsmax, which is the second most-watched conservative media outlet in the country today. Do your notes about January 6 reference Epoch Times and Newsmax as on a list of domestic terrorists?” Banks asked.
“I’m not recalling this conversation at all,” Milley said.
“It’s in the book,” Banks pushed back.
“And it may be in the book. I haven’t read the book,” Milley said again, and as the questioning wrapped, he offered to produce his notes on the subject.