"At no time was I attempting to change or influence the process, usurp authority, or insert myself into the chain of command," Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called General Li Zuocheng of the People's Liberation Army on Oct. 30, 2020 and again on Jan. 8. Milley said he attempted to persuade Li the United States was stable and was not going to attack following "concerning intelligence" meaning Chinese concerns of a possible U.S. strike.
In his first public comments on the conversations, Gen. Mark Milley said such calls are "routine" and were done "to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case in order to ensure strategic stability." The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke to The Associated Press and another reporter traveling with him to Europe.
Milley has been at the center of a firestorm amid reports he made two calls to Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People's Liberation Army to assure him that the United States was not going to suddenly go to war with or attack China.
Records of the calls made last October and in January were first expressed in excerpts from the forthcoming book "Peril" by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. The book says Milley told Li that he would inform Li in the event of an attack.
Milley on Friday submitted only a brief defense of his calls, saying he plans a deeper discussion about the matter for Congress when he testifies at a hearing later in September.
"I think it's best that I reserve my comments on the record until I do that in front of the lawmakers who have the lawful responsibility to oversee the U.S. military," Milley said. "I'll go into any level of detail Congress wants to go into in a couple of weeks."
Some U.S. lawmakers have said Milley exceeded his power, and they have called for Biden to dismiss him. Trump blasted Milley as treasonous, called him “a complete nut job” and said Milley “never told me about calls being made to China.”
Biden told reporters after the disclosures in the book that “I have great confidence in Gen. Milley.”