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Politics Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod

04:40  16 september  2021
04:40  16 september  2021 Source:   thehill.com

Book: Top US officer feared Trump could order China strike

  Book: Top US officer feared Trump could order China strike WASHINGTON (AP) — Fearful of Donald Trump's actions in his final weeks as president, the United States' top military officer twice called his Chinese counterpart to assure him that the two nations would not suddenly go to war, a senior defense official said after the conversations were described in excerpts from a forthcoming book. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley told Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army that the United States would not strike. One call took place on Oct. 30, 2020, four days before the election that defeated Trump. The second call was on Jan. 8, 2021, just two days after the insurrection at the U.S.

It's Wednesday, welcome to Overnight Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

Mark A. Milley wearing a suit and tie: Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod © Greg Nash Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley has become a lightning rod for the Biden administration amid calls for him to resign over book excerpts revealing President Trump's final days in office.

We'll break down what the issue is, who is angry, and what the Biden administration has to say.

For The Hill, we're Ellen Mitchell and Rebecca Kheel. Write to us with tips: emitchell@thehill.com and rkheel@thehill.com.

Pentagon defends Milley's calls to top Chinese general in final months of Trump presidency, saying such calls are vital to avoiding conflict

  Pentagon defends Milley's calls to top Chinese general in final months of Trump presidency, saying such calls are vital to avoiding conflict The White House downplayed reports about Milley and said that President Biden has "complete confidence" in the general.Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa reported in the new book "Peril" that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley made two secret phone calls to his counterpart in China's People's Liberation Army, Gen. Li Zuocheng, in part because there were concerns that President Donald Trump had declined mentally and might spark a war.

Let's get to it.

Milley moved to limit Trump military strike, book claims

Mark A. Milley wearing a suit and tie © Provided by The Hill

Milley has become a lightning rod for the Biden administration over new scenes revealed in "Peril," the upcoming book by Watergate reporter Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of The Washington Post.

Milley, already a target for conservatives before the revelations, is facing calls for him to resign over excerpts underscoring his maneuvering during Trump's final days in office.

But the new bombshells, including that Milley twice called his Chinese counterpart following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to assure him Trump did not have plans to attack Beijing as part of a ploy to remain in power, have sparked new calls for the general to resign.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right

  Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has become a lightning rod for the Biden administration, which is facing calls for him to resign over book excerpts underscoring his maneuvering during former President Donald Trump's final days in office.Milley was already a target for conservatives before the revelations in "Peril," the upcoming book by Watergate reporter Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of The Washington Post.But the newMilley was already a target for conservatives before the revelations in "Peril," the upcoming book by Watergate reporter Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of The Washington Post.

Who wants him gone: It's not just Trump supporters who are angered by the revelations either.

Claims in "Peril" that Milley moved to limit Trump's ability to call for a military strike or launch nuclear weapons after the riot have brought criticism from opponents of Trump, including retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified against Trump in his 2019 impeachment trial.

Vindman said Milley should resign if the reporting in "Peril" is accurate, saying on Twitter that Milley "usurped civilian authority, broke Chain of Command, and violated the sacrosanct principle of civilian control over the military."

But Biden backs him: While pressure on Milley and President Biden is growing, there's no signal that the general is in danger.

Biden on Wednesday said that he had "great confidence in Gen. Milley" when asked if the general did the right thing in light of his reported actions.

Trump claims Biden won't fire Milley for fear of him 'spilling the dirty secrets' on Afghanistan

  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. © Provided by Washington Examiner 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.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki also offered support, saying Biden and Milley have "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."

Meanwhile, at the Pentagon: Press secretary John Kirby told reporters, "I've seen nothing in what I've read that would cause any concern."

Kirby would not confirm the events in the book but said Milley, as the key military adviser to the president, would be "intimately involved in that process in providing advice and counsel" to the Defense secretary and the president in the event of any military strike.

Conservatives not pleased: The pushback has done little to quash complaints about Milley.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Milley should be fired over the "contemplation" of a leak of classified information to China and criticized the chairman for undermining the former president with his communications with China. He even suggested on Fox News on Tuesday night that Milley was involved in "the essence of a military coup."

Biden has 'great confidence' in Milley after secret actions in Trump's final months

  Biden has 'great confidence' in Milley after secret actions in Trump's final months A former official told ABC News that then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper was actually the first official to initiate similar outreach to China."I have great confidence in Gen. Milley," Biden told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega, during an event at the White House.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) called for Milley to be fired, saying he doesn't have the right or the authority "to contact our opponents in Beijing and tell them that he will inform them about any action we might take before we take it."

But others hold off: Some other Republicans have held back from calling for Milley's ouster, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Rep. Mike Waltz (Fla.), who instead wrote to Milley seeking answers on the phone calls to his Chinese counterpart.

The two said they wanted a briefing "on the intelligence that led you to believe that China was concerned about a preemptive strike from the United States."

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said on Fox on Wednesday that the information in the book raises "serious concerns" but said some of the allegations seem "somewhat far-fetched." But he said senators will address the concerns when Milley testifies on Capitol Hill later this month.

Read the full story here.

BOLTON BACKS MILLEY

Among supporters of Milley is former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, who defended the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman on Wednesday.

Bolton said Milley's "patriotism is unquestioned" and that he is a "staunch supporter of the Constitution and the rule of law."

"In the days after Donald Trump's November 3, 2020, election defeat, I can only imagine the pressures he and others were under in fulfilling their Constitutional obligations," Bolton wrote. "I have no doubt General Milley consulted widely with his colleagues on the National Security Council and others during this period."

Trump complained aircraft carrier USS Gerald Ford 'doesn't look right'

  Trump complained aircraft carrier USS Gerald Ford 'doesn't look right' Former President Donald Trump was fixated with the Navy's supercarrier USS Gerald Ford, complaining to senior military officers that the $13billion ship 'just doesn't look right,' according to a new book.‘I know aesthetics,’ Trump reportedly told senior military leaders when he told them he didn’t like the ship’s high cost, the advanced weapons elevators used to transport arms aboard, and the location of the ‘island’ - or command center - on the ship’s deck.

Bolton also said he would be "very surprised" if officials on the National Security Council were not aware of Milley's actions, and if they did not agree with his efforts.

Read more about that here.

How lawmakers aided the Afghan evacuation

A U.S. Air Force air crew assigned assists evacuees huddled in a plane © Provided by The Hill A U.S. Air Force air crew assigned assists evacuees huddled in a plane

Congressional offices went to extraordinary measures to help in the evacuation effort of Americans and vulnerable Afghans stuck in Afghanistan amid the Taliban's takeover of the country last month.

While Kabul's quick fall shocked the world, Senate and House lawmakers soon found their offices overwhelmed with desperate pleas from Afghan Americans, military veterans of the war in Afghanistan, workers of nongovernmental organizations and others scrambling for contacts to save people stranded in the country suddenly under the rule of a terrorist organization.

The Hill spoke to nearly 20 lawmakers and staffers in both parties about what their offices went through over the fraught two weeks between when Kabul first fell, on Aug. 15, and the last U.S. military flight, just before midnight Aug. 30.

A personal endeavor: The mission was personal for many of them: Some are veterans, or relatives of veterans, of the 20-year war, and some had even worked with local interpreters whom they considered key to their survival.

Lawmakers and staffers also said they felt obligated to answer requests from constituents as well as those beyond their districts looking for help. Many offices found success in helping people evacuate, but those victories are dampened by the sheer numbers of people left behind.

Opinion: Milley's reasonable actions raise a serious question

  Opinion: Milley's reasonable actions raise a serious question What Milley did was put his country above his commander-in-chief, writes Peter Bergen. Given the irrational rage that Trump was exhibiting after his election loss, Milley made the right call to reassure the Chinese about the stability of the US national security apparatus. But Milley's actions could set a dangerous precedent and we should carefully consider how high-ranking military officers in future administrations might insert themselves into the chain of command under a different president.

How many out? How many left?: While the administration evacuated about 125,000 people from Afghanistan last month, independent analysts estimate that more than 100,000 people who fall into a priority for evacuation were left behind.

"It was tough, honestly. I was in communication with probably five to 10 people on the ground in Kabul and that was just emotionally frustrating and demoralizing," Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), whose district includes one of the largest Afghan American communities in the U.S., said in an interview with The Hill.

But others said their work on evacuations is still weighing on them.

Read the full story here.

Capitol Police ask Pentagon for help ahead of rally

a group of people walking down the street © Provided by The Hill

Capitol Police has asked the Pentagon to provide military personnel ahead of Saturday's pro-Trump Jan. 6 rally in Washington, D.C., the Defense Department confirmed Wednesday.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the department has "received a request from the Capitol Police for some assistance for this weekend's scheduled protest."

He would not say more on the specific request, noting that it is typical Defense Department policy to let the agency asking for assistance be the ones to speak on the details.

Kirby added that Pentagon officials are currently analyzing the request and "if it can be validated and supported, we'll do that.

Preparations: Security officials and congressional leaders are making sure they will not be blindsided by Saturday's rally which is intended to show support for those who have been charged in connection to the Capitol riot.

After officials appeared to be caught flat-footed on Jan. 6, when a violent mob of former President Trump's supporters overwhelmed police officers and stormed the Capitol in a failed attempt to overturn President Biden's election victory, there has been a scramble to ensure the same events don't happen again.

Mark Milley Insists Calls to China Are 'Routine' Part of Job in First Public Comments

  Mark Milley Insists Calls to China Are 'Routine' Part of Job in First Public Comments The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff came under fire amid reports that he'd twice called his Chinese counterpart with assurances that the U.S. would not attack or initiate a war with China. Speaking to the AP while traveling to Europe, Milley said that he made the calls "to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case in order to ensure strategic stability."Excerpts from the upcoming book Peril, authored by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, contained descriptions of the calls Milley made. During the conversations, he told Li that he would provide him with a warning in the event of a U.S.

Capitol Police have installed temporary high-tech security cameras to allow them a wider view of the Capitol complex, and the Capitol Police Board on Monday approved a plan to reinstall a 7-foot fence around the main Capitol building.

Numbers unknown:Asked how many personnel the Capitol Police requested and what roles they would take on, Kirby would only say that "it is not an exorbitant ask."

"It's not of a particularly large size or major capability," he said. "I think it's really more in the form of some manpower support."

Read the rest here.

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

  • The Potomac Officers Club will hear from Jay Dryer, director of the Defense Department's Strategic Capabilities Office, as part of its virtual Fall 2021 5G Summit at 8 a.m.
  • The Middle East Institute will hold a virtual discussion on "The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Biden administration's Middle East policy," with retired Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, former commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, at 10 a.m.
  • The Atlantic Council will hold a virtual discussion on "Congress and Authorizations for Use of Military Force Repeal, with Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.); and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), at 1 p.m.

WHAT WE'RE READING

  • Top Republican: General told senators he opposed Afghanistan withdrawal
  • US to help Australia acquire nulear-powered submarines in counter to China
  • New Army office to address sex crimes removed from chain of command
  • Joint Chiefs spokesperson confirms Milley calls with China, defends them as routing
  • Vindman calls for Milley's resignation: 'He usurped authority'
  • North Korea says recent missiles were test of 'railway-bore' system
  • The Hill: Opinion: American needs a new strategy for Pacific Island Countries
  • The Hill: Opinion: How Afghanistan's Taliban can prove it's new and improved: Expel the terrorists

That's it for today. Check out The Hill's defense and national security pages for the latest coverage. We'll see you Thursday.

Mark Milley Insists Calls to China Are 'Routine' Part of Job in First Public Comments .
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff came under fire amid reports that he'd twice called his Chinese counterpart with assurances that the U.S. would not attack or initiate a war with China. Speaking to the AP while traveling to Europe, Milley said that he made the calls "to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case in order to ensure strategic stability."Excerpts from the upcoming book Peril, authored by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, contained descriptions of the calls Milley made. During the conversations, he told Li that he would provide him with a warning in the event of a U.S.

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