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Former Washington Journalist
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The Washington Post reporters who reported the activities of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the dark days following the deadly January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol Building as part of their new book are publicly defending the military chief.
According to the book Peril, by the Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Army Gen Mark Milley seriously worried for then-president Donald Trump’s state of mind following the events of January 6.
So much so, according to the book, that Milley took a call from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, agreeing with her that Trump was “crazy,” and worried that the then-president could start a war — or even try to use his authority over the nation’s nuclear arsenal — in some desperate bid to remain in power.
Milley conducted back channel communications with his counterpart in China, according to the book, to reassure Chinese leadership that the United States was neither planning to attack China nor was it on the verge of collapse.
Milley went even further, Woodward and Costa say, by holding a secret meeting with military leadership at the Pentagon, telling them that he needed to be involved in any attack orders — including the use of the nuclear arsenal — which might come from Trump.
The political right has been pillorying Milley in the weeks since, going as far as baselessly accusing the 40-year veteran of “treason.”
That, say Woodward and Costa, is unfair.
Milley is being accused of telling others to “make sure I am in the loop as procedures called,” noted Woodward, whose career traces back to the famed Watergate break-in during the Nixon administration.
“The last time we saw that happen was 1974 when Secretary of Defense [James] Schlesinger did the same thing because he was worried about [Richard] Nixon and his mental state. So this was a moment of maximum peril,” said Woodward, who has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books since he reported Watergate for the Post with colleague Carl Bernstein. “You have somebody under pressure. We sit — Costa and I pontificated a little on this. Well, what should he do? You learned from very sensitive intelligence that the Chinese think we’re going to — this is a crisis moment. You have a practical problem to talk General Li down. And he said some things that he explained today, we explain in our book.
“This is not to tip the Chinese off. This is to make sure in their five-year relationship that we’re going to talk to each other if there are tensions. You will see a build-up. And I’ve said this before and Bob Costa said it before. When this is all washed out, those who were saying that General Milley actually was treasonous in what he did, I think are going to owe the general an apology,” Woodward added.
Milley’s actions were driven by Trump’s behavior at the time, Costa reminded.
“The speaker of the House of Representatives, second in line to the presidency, calling the senior military officer in the United States two days after an insurrection, anything but routine. And saying to Chairman Milley, ‘We need to make sure, you need to make sure that the nuclear arsenal is under control,’ and Milley assures her that he will make sure that happens, based on our transcript and our reporting that we found.
“And you see Milley calling in people to his office from the NMCC, the National Military Command Center, and going over the procedures with them and saying whatever happens, make sure you follow the procedure and I’m on the net. An extraordinary moment to have the speaker of the House so alarmed and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff feeling compelled to make sure that officers in charge of the nuclear arsenal at that time were fully aware of the procedures,” Costa added. “And it goes back to President Trump, it was driven by his conduct and what happened on January 6. This was not some kind of stray thing, all driven by the president at the time.”
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