Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., declared on Newsmax that Gen. Mark Milley went outside the chain of command when he made two phone calls to China's People's Liberation Army Gen. Li Zuocheng.
Appearing Wednesday on "Spicer & Co.," Zeldin, the ranking member on the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said that "we're trying to pursue what kind of chain-of-command approval was there" for Milley to make those two calls.
According to Business Insider, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa's book "Peril" reports that Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made two calls to Li over concerns about then-President Donald Trump's mental health, saying that Trump may start a war.
Zeldin pointed out that Milley is "not the leader of his own chain of command, and there is a civilian head of the Department of Defense, and there is a president. ... You're not a free agent in any way" to make such decisions.
The congressman also mentioned that Milley is "implementing a decision that comes as policy from a higher level. Even though you're at the strategic level, when you're the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, you are executing strategic-level policies set by the commander in chief."
But on Wednesday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that it's "not only common, it's expected that a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would continue to have counterpart conversations," adding that "frequent communication with countries like Russia and China is not atypical."
Kirby added that "part of the value of having these conversations, particularly with countries like Russia and China, with which we are experiencing tension, is to try to reduce the risk of miscalculation and conflict, to try to take down tensions, to make clear what our national security interests are."
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