Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, says it's ''unbelievable'' and ''stunning'' that top U.S. military officer Mark Milley circumvented civilian leaders to place secret calls to his Chinese counterpart over concerns about then-President Donald Trump.
The phone calls were described in excerpts from the forthcoming book ''Peril'' by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. The book says Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People's Liberation Army that he would warn his counterpart in the event of a U.S. attack.
''People talk about him breaking the chain of command, which is critical, but that's not the most offensive thing that [Milley] did,'' Stewart said Thursday on Newsmax's ''American Agenda.''
''It's the things that he said. I cannot imagine a general officer speaking as if he is speaking for the president of the United States and then saying things such as, 'If we attack you, I will warn you first.'
''The whole premise of this phone call was 'Well, I think my president may not be mentally capable of fulfilling his responsibilities.' What in the world are other foreign governments supposed to think about that?
"Do they think they're supposed to start talking to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff? Should I talk to the State Department? Who in the world is in charge over there?''
The book by Woodward and Costa reported that Milley, fearful of Trump's actions in his final weeks as president, twice called his Chinese counterpart to assure him that the United States was not going to attack China.
One call took place on Oct. 30, 2020, four days before the election that Trump lost. The second call was on Jan. 8, 2021, less than two weeks before Biden's inauguration and just two days after the riot at the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters.
On Wednesday, Trump said Milley never told him about the conversations.
"Milley never told me about calls being made to China," Trump wrote in a statement from his Save America PAC. "From what I understand, he didn't tell too many other people either."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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