Lloyd Austin says he has 'confidence' in Gen. Milley amid China controversy

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Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Thursday he “has confidence” in Gen. Mark Milley following calls for his resignation over allegations of “secret” calls with his Chinese counterpart during the Trump administration. 

The allegations were levied at Milley earlier this week by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their unreleased book titled “Peril.”

“All of what’s mentioned in that book happened before I became secretary of Defense so I can’t comment on that,” Austin said in response to questions. “I certainly won’t comment on what’s in the book.” 

“I have confidence in Gen. Milley,” he told reporters. 

The book reportedly claims that Milley made two phone calls to his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army, out of fear that Trump would create conflict with the communist nation.

The book alleged that Milley first contacted Li in the lead-up to the 2020 general election after reviewing intelligence that suggested the Chinese feared a U.S. attack on China during military exercises in the South China Sea. 

The second call was to assure Li in the aftermath of the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

These calls were allegedly never shared with Donald Trump, who Milley believed was in a declining mental state following the election, according to the book.

On Wednesday, Joint Staff spokesperson Col. Dave Butler defended the calls and said the conversations were “vital” to “reducing tensions” and “avoiding unintended consequences or conflict.”

Butler also said the calls were coordinated with other high-level defense officials. 

The spokesman said Milley’s 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.”

Fox News spoke with multiple individuals who were in the room during the two phone calls Milley had with Li. The calls were further coordinated with the Defense secretary’s office. 

“They were not secret,” a U.S. official told Fox News regarding the calls.

Jennifer Griffin, Brooke Singman and Kyle Morris contributed to this report. 

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