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Kamis, 16 September 2021

‘Treason’ claims rock White House - NEWS.com.au

US President Joe Biden is standing by one of America’s top generals, who has been accused of committing “treason” in his dealings with China.

US President Biden is standing by General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, despite accusations he committed treason during the final weeks of the Trump administration by reassuring his Chinese counterpart that then-President Trump would not attack Beijing.

“I have great confidence in Gen. Milley,” Biden responded to reporters on Wednesday, moments after press secretary Jen Psaki appeared to excuse Milley’s alleged conduct as acceptable in the “context of this period and time in history” given that he did so while Trump was in his final days as commander in chief and amid the backdrop of the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

“What I can assure you all is that [President Biden] knows General Milley, he has been chairman of the Joint Chiefs for almost eight months of his presidency, they’ve worked side-by-side through a range of international events, and the President has complete confidence in his leadership, his patriotism and his fidelity to our Constitution,” Psaki said when asked about the allegations against Milley in the forthcoming book Peril by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

The book says Milley told Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army that he would warn his counterpart in the event of a US attack.

In a written statement issued minutes before Psaki’s press briefing, Gen. Milley’s spokesman, Colonel Dave Butler, acknowledged the communications with the Chinese, saying the top US military officer acted within his authority as the most senior uniformed adviser to the president and to the secretary of defence.

“The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs regularly communicates with Chiefs of Defence across the world, including with China and Russia. These conversations remain vital to improving mutual understanding of U.S. national security interests, reducing tensions, providing clarity and avoiding unintended consequences or conflict,” the statement said.

“His calls with the Chinese and others in October and January were in keeping with these duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability,” Butler said. “All calls from the chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, co-ordinated and communicated with the Department of Defence and the interagency.”

Psaki in her defence of Milley’s actions, which have been labelled as treasonous amid calls for him to step down, said: “Since you gave me the opportunity I just wanted to add, I think it’s important to consider some of the context, context of this period and time, of time in history that we’re discussing and is outlined in portions of this book. The outgoing president of the United States, during this period of time, fomented unrest, leading to an insurrection and an attack on our nation’s capital, on Jan. 6 which we’ve all, you all have covered extensively, of course, one of the darkest days in our nation’s history,” Psaki charged of Trump, seeming to make a moral equivocation for Milley’s surreptitious calls to the Chinese.

“It’s the obligation of every chairman of the Joint Chiefs to follow constitutional order to prevent unlawful military action, that’s what the president believes,” Psaki noted. “I have great confidence in General Milley.”

Christopher Miller, the former acting Secretary of Defence at the end of the Trump administration, told Fox News that he “did not and would not ever authorise” Milley to have “secret” calls with Li, and described the allegations as a “disgraceful and unprecedented act of insubordination.”

Miller said Milley should resign “immediately.”

In a statement to Fox News, Miller said the armed forces since the beginning have “operated under the inviolable principle of civilian control of the military.”

“The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the highest-ranking military officer whose sole role is providing military-specific advice to the president, and by law is prohibited from exercising executive authority to command forces,” Miller said in the statement. “The chain of command runs from the President to the Secretary of Defence, not through the Chairman.”

Kash Patel, the former chief of staff for the Defence Department, said Milley violated laws governing the chairman’s ability to exercise “any operational authority.”

“Congress put this in the statute because the U.S. military is to be led by a civilian, the commander-in-chief,” Patel told Fox News.

“Furthermore, by law, the national command authority goes from the president to the secretary of Defence to include anything relating troop deployments, operations in theatres of war, and nuclear command.”

“Calling a foreign counterpart and discussing operational capabilities against that enemy is literally treasonous,” he added. “The White House, nor the Office of the Secretary of Defence authorised the chairman to conduct any calls with Chinese officials regarding operations.”

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby was pressed on the matter at his own briefing and said Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has confidence in Milley despite the chairman’s apparent end-run around his commander in chief, former President Trump.

“The secretary has complete and utter trust and confidence in Gen. Milley in his role as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” he said.

Kirby said he couldn’t comment on communications that occurred in the previous administration but characterised Milley’s talks with Li as a routine part of a chairman’s responsibilities.

“I would say is a part of the value of having these communications, particularly with countries like Russia and China, with which we are experiencing tensions, is to try to reduce the risks in this calculation and conflict, to try to take down tensions, to make clear what our national security interests are,” Kirby said.

“The communication channel between our chairman and a chief of defence is a really key vehicle for transmitting and communicating those kinds of messages,” he added.

Asked if the chairman has an obligation to carry out the orders of a sitting president, Kirby said all “lawful” orders from the commander-in-chief must be obeyed, adding that doesn’t hold for “unlawful orders,” without saying what they would entail.

According to Peril, Milley contacted Li twice in the final months of the Trump administration – once right before the election on October 30, 2020, and again on January 8, two days after the riot at the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters.

Milley reassured him both times that the administration would not launch attacks against China.

Milley also told Li that if Trump did order an attack against China, “I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”

Trump said if the claims in the book by Woodward and Costa are true, Milley, whom he referred to as “Dumbass,” “would be tried for TREASON in that he would have been dealing with his Chinese counterpart behind the President’s back and telling China that he would be giving them notification “of an attack.” Can’t do that!”

But Trump went on to say the story is “Fake News concocted by a weak and ineffective General together with two authors who I refused to give an interview to because they write fiction, not fact.”

Others have joined with Trump in calling for Milley to be prosecuted.

Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) said in a tweet that the “deep state is real.”

“General Milley needs to be court-martialed for sedition,” Steube said.

Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) said nobody elected Milley.

“He can’t pretend otherwise. We need an investigation NOW & if true, his resignation & court-martial.

“While we’re on the topic of ‘unrest,’ Biden & Milley are directly responsible for 13 dead servicemembers & letting Afghanistan fall into chaos,” Bishop said in the posting.

Reacting to the statement from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Donald Trump Jr. said that “isn’t even remotely close to a denial from Milley … it’s basically a full throttle defence of his potentially treasonous actions.”

“He needs to be removed,” the former president’s son said.

During the White House presser, Psaki was peppered with questions about Milley’s conduct and ability to serve but continued to talk about the general’s “fidelity to the Constitution.”

At one point Psaki was asked about Republicans reactions to Milley and whether that would colour any actions Biden may take.

“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.

She was also asked about whether there were any concerns in the Biden administration that Milley might exceed his authority.

Psaki said that’s why she provided context for Milley’s actions.

“Because what we’re talking about here, one, let me just restate again, that there are a range of reports in this book, anonymous, unconfirmed,” she said.

She then referred to the statement by the Joints Chiefs of Staff and said that shows the normal channels of communication.

“Broadly speaking, beyond this book … any Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has channels to communicate with China and Russia. Those are meant to increase confidence. Those are meant to prevent and deter any action that would be unintended, and that is a good thing, because obviously we want to prevent nuclear war,” she said, adding that Milley is a man of honour, patriotic and has “fidelity to the Constitution.”

This article originally appeared in the New York Post and has been reproduced with permission

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2021-09-16 09:26:45Z
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