A key witness in the first impeachment of then-President Donald Trump said Tuesday that Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “must resign” if he is confirmed to have made secret calls to his Chinese counterpart in order to reassure Beijing that Trump would not order military action against the communist superpower.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a former member of the National Security Council, tweeted that if the calls were made, Milley “usurped civilian authority, broke Chain of Command, and violated the sacrosanct principle of civilian control over the military.
“It’s an extremely dangerous precedent. You can’t simply walk away from that,” added Vindman, who concluded his post by adding a hashtag to the phrase “do the right thing in the right way.”
Details of the calls between Milley and Li Zuocheng, the chief of the Joint Staff Department of Beijing’s Central Military Commission, were reported by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of the Washington Post in their forthcoming book “Peril.”
In the first call, which took place Oct. 30 of last year, Milley reportedly told Li that “I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay.”
“We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you,” vowed Milley, who added that if Trump did order an attack against China, “I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”
In the second conversation, which took place two days after the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol, Milley reassured Li that the American government was “100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.”
Vindman briefly gained notoriety in 2019 when he testified that he had raised concerns to his superiors about a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which the US president asked Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter over the younger Biden’s lucrative gig on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma.
Trump made the request after withholding nearly $400 million in security aid approved by Congress to help Ukraine fight Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country. The money was eventually released in September after bipartisan pressure on the commander-in-chief.
“I was concerned by the call,” Vindman told lawmakers that October. “I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a US citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the US government’s support of Ukraine.”
“I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play, which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained,” he explained. “This would all undermine US national security.”
Vindman’s description of the phone call helped lead to Trump’s impeachment in December 2019 on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The Senate voted to acquit the 45th president on both counts the following February.
Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the Ukraine affair and has described the July 25 conversation with Zelensky as a “perfect call.”