General Mark Milley pledged to give a full account of his controversial phone calls with his Chinese counterpart during the final months of Donald Trump's presidency when he testifies under oath before Congress at the end of the month.
Milley defended his calls to his Chinese counterpart as 'perfectly within the duties and responsibilities' of his job as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The general was blasted by the former president and several conservatives for his conversations, including being accused of 'treason' for breaking the chain of command.
He told reporters traveling with him to a NATO conference in Athens he would discuss the matter in greater detail in the days to come, when he testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 28.
'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.'
General Mark Milley defended his calls to his Chinese counterpart during the final months of Donald Trump's presidency
In the final days of Trump's presidency, Gen. Mark Milley called Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People's Liberation Army to reassure him the U.S. was not going to suddenly attack China - the two men are seen above at an honor guard review in Beijing in August 2016
Republican members of the committee include Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley and Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn, both staunch supporters of Trump, and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, one of Congress' most vocal critics of the Biden administration.
The embattled general was scheduled to testify before the panel on President Biden's Afghanistan crisis, but the revelations on Milley from 'Peril,' the forthcoming book by the Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, have become a central focus for Republicans - particularly allies of the former president.
September 28 will likely be the first time lawmakers have the opportunity to press Milley under oath since news of the China calls emerged.
Speaking to the media Friday he said the calls are 'routine' and were done 'to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case in order to ensure strategic stability.'
'These are routine calls in order to discuss issues of the day, to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case, in order to ensure strategic stability,' he said. 'And these are perfectly within the duties and responsibilities of the chairman.'
Senators Josh Hawley, Marsha Blackburn and Tom Cotton are all members of the Senate panel that Milley will be testifying in front of
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and U.S. Central Command chief General Kenneth McKenzie will also be witnesses at the September 28 hearing.
Some members of the panel have already spoken out against Milley.
On Fox News Tuesday, Hawley blasted the general's actions as 'dangerous.'
'I mean, this is this is dangerous, dangerous territory that we're in. And we're going to have to get to the bottom of it,' he said. 'He needs to resign, and if he won't resign, he needs to be fired. I mean, he has broken the trust of the American people.'
Blackburn made several Twitter posts on Thursday and Friday attacking Milley as treasonous and accused him of dereliction of duty.
'General Milley should be removed as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs while his phone calls with Communist China are investigated,' her most recent post on Milley reads.
'Peril' says Milley made the phone calls to Li in October 2020 and January 2021 amid concerns from Beijing that Trump would mount an attack as tensions between the two nations rose.
It reports Milley told Li that he would warn Li in the event of an attack.
'Things may look unsteady,' Milley told Li. 'But that's the nature of democracy, General Li. We are 100 percent steady. Everything's fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.'
'General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we're going to attack, I'm going to call you ahead of time. It's not going to be a surprise,' Milley reportedly told him.
Trump, in response, called Milley 'a complete nutjob' and accused him of 'treason.'
'He put our Country in a very dangerous position but President Xi knows better, and would've called me,' Trump said in a statement Wednesday, denying he was considering an attack on China.
Trump also accused Milley of treason, a call echoed by some in the conservative wing of the Republican Party.
'I've had so many calls today saying that's treason,' Trump told Newsmax.
He followed up in a statement on the general: 'I assume he would be tried for TREASON in that he would have been dealing with his Chinese counterpart behind the President's back and telling China that he would be giving them notification 'of an attack.'
Donald Trump blasted Gen. Mark Milley as a 'nutjob' and said he committed 'treason'
General Mark Milley called Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People's Liberation Army in October 2020 and January 2021 to tell him he would give him a head's up if an attack was coming
Fox News' Sean Hannity also painted Milley as a 'traitor.'
'Peril,' by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa will be released by Simon & Schuster on September 21
'If this is true, General Milley would be a traitor to this country and should be tried for treason immediately. If true, he should be fired and tried for treason immediately,' Hannity said on his show on Tuesday night.
President Joe Biden and officials in his administration have defended Milley, whose term as head of the Joint Chiefs runs until 2023.
'I have great confidence in General Milley,' he said on Wednesday afternoon.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reaffirmed the administration's support for Milley, lauding him as a 'patriot' and urged people to remember Trump's final two months in office.
'The outgoing president of the United States, during this period of time, fomented unrest leading to an insurrection and an attack on our nation's Capitol on January 6,' she said, adding that it was 'one of the darkest days in our nation's history.'
She added: 'There was broad concern from a range of members of his national security team about his behavior and fitness for office.'