The former Trump administration national security adviser, John Bolton, emerged as a defender of General Mark Milley on Wednesday as the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman finds himself facing calls for his removal by Republicans.
Mr Bolton released a statement on Wednesday afternoon praising the “unquestioned” patriotism of Gen Milley, a move that comes as some in the GOP have criticised reports that he called a top Chinese general to reassure him of the US government’s stability just before the 2020 election occurred.
“Mark Milley is a staunch supporter of the Constitution and the rule of law,” Mr Bolton said. “His patriotism is unquestioned.”
Mr Bolton went on to say that he “can only imagine” the pressure Mr Milley faced in the days after the 2020 election as former President Donald Trump launched a campaign to falsely claim that he won the 2020 election and had supposedly been robbed of his victory by massive electoral and voter fraud.
“I have no doubt General Milley consulted widely with his colleagues on the National Security Council and others during this period,” Mr Bolton said, dismissing claims that the call was any secret in the national security sphere. “I would also be surprised if many of them were not fully aware of General Milley’s actions, and that they fully concurred in them.”
Some conservatives including Senator Marco Rubio have called for Gen Milley to be fired or resign, with Mr Rubio asserting that Gen Milley’s call to China had involved him “contemplat[ing] a treasonous leak of classified information to the Chinese Communist Party”, in apparent reference to Gen Milley attempting to assuage concerns that Mr Trump would order an attack against China in the waning days of his presidency as he grew increasingly untethered from reality.
“General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay,” Gen Milley said, according to excerpts of the book from Peril by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. “We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.”
“If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise," Gen Milley reportedly said.
The former president himself also weighed in during a Newsmax interview this week, and claimed that the top general’s actions amounted to “treason” if true.
Despite dismissals of his allegations of voter fraud from his own attorney general and other experts, Mr Trump has continued to make false claims about the 2020 election, claims which polls suggest a majority of Republican voters believe despite the Trump team’s inability to produce any evidence that a court would find convincing.
Reports from The New York Times indicate that he has also spread a false conspiracy theory claiming that he could be reinstated as president in the near future, a prospect for which there is no constitutional process.