Donald Trump turned Black Friday into Flashback Friday.
The former president sent out an email blast saying he “never” considered launching a war with China and that Gen. Mark Milley “should be tried for treason” if he phoned the Chinese military to promise advance warning of a US attack.
The statement comes more than two months after the release of the book “Peril” by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, which said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff gave backchannel assurances to China in Trump’s final months in office.
Milley, the highest-ranking US military officer, admitted at a House committee hearing in September that he gave such assurances to Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army.
“Does anybody really believe that longtime Con Man Bob Woodward, and his lightweight lapdog assistant Robert Costa, are implying in their book of fiction that I was planning to go to war with China, but that one of the dumber generals in the military called the Chinese to tell them that he will inform them if this action proceeds further,” Trump said in an emailed statement.
“Milley may have called, but if so, he should be tried for treason.”
Trump added: “I never had even a thought of going to war with China, other than the war I was winning, which was on TRADE. To make up stories like this and to sell it to the public is disgraceful. I watched that craggy smug face of Woodward as he ‘bullshits’ the public and said to myself, ‘I wonder if history will really believe this stuff?’ How do you get your reputation back? I was the only President in decades to not get us into a war — I got us out of wars!”
It’s unclear what prompted the former commander in chief to issue the statement. Trump is openly teasing a potential rematch against President Biden in 2024.
Milley admitted in September that he told his Chinese counterpart that he’d give a heads-up if Trump ordered an attack on China. ”I said, hell, I’ll call you. But we’re not going to attack you,” the general testified after the book’s allegations sparked outrage on Capitol Hill.
As reported in the book, Milley told Li on Oct. 20, “If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”
Milley called again on Jan. 8, two days after a wild mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol to disrupt certification of Biden’s victory in the Electoral College.
Biden stood by Milley, saying “I have great confidence in General Milley,” and the general’s office said that Milley “regularly communicates with Chiefs of Defense across the world, including with China and Russia.”
“His calls with the Chinese and others in October and January were in keeping with these duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability,” Milley’s office said. “All calls from the Chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency.”
Mark Esper, secretary of defense at the time of the October call, reportedly was aware of the pre-election outreach to China. But Christopher Miller, the acting defense secretary at the time of the second call, said that Milley didn’t get his sign-off and that it “represents a disgraceful and unprecedented act of insubordination by the Nation’s top military officer.”
Milley previously was accused of undermining civilian control of the military by resisting Trump’s effort to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan before he left office on Jan. 20. That effort ultimately was scuttled by Milley, who reportedly enlisted the help of national security adviser Robert O’Brien and Miller to plead with Trump to change his mind.
Axios reported that National Security Agency intercepts indicated that Afghan officials believed US military leaders would resist Trump’s exit plans and that a US official who had spoken with Milley told an Afghan official that Milley had no confidence in the civilian leadership of the Pentagon.