WASHINGTON – The leaders of a House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection said Thursday they have sought records related to calls from Gen. Mark Milley, the top U.S. military officer, to his Chinese counterpart in the turbulent final months of Donald Trump’s presidency.
Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said in a statement that they had already asked for records connected to the calls, which Milley’s spokesman has said were intended to convey “reassurance” to the Chinese military and were in line with his responsibilities as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The House committee asked the Defense Department in August for a broad swath of records related to the November election, the transfer of power to President Joe Biden and the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“The Select Committee has sought records specifically related to these matters and we expect the Department of Defense to cooperate fully with our probe,” Thompson and Cheney said in the statement.
A soon-to-be published book by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, “Peril,” says Milley told Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army that he would warn him in the event of a U.S. attack.
“General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay,” Milley told him in an October call, according to the book. “We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.” Another call was placed two days after the Jan. 6 insurrection.
The statement from the leaders of the panel, created by the House to investigate the insurrection, comes as it reviews thousands of pages of documents requested from multiple federal agencies and technology companies about the insurrection and its origins. Thompson and Cheney said in the statement that the panel is “dedicated to telling the complete story of the unprecedented and extraordinary events of January 6th, including all steps that led to what happened that day, and the specific actions and activities that followed between January 6th and January 20th, 2021," the day Biden took office.
Milley was appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs in 2019 by Trump and has remained in the position in Biden’s administration. Both Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin have said they have confidence in Milley as some Republicans in Congress urge his firing.
Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans serving on the panel along with Cheney, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday that he believes “there is a lot more to the story, and that’s why I think it’s important for the Jan. 6 committee to deal with it.”
Kinzinger said lawmakers should “get the full answers before we start jumping to making it political.” He said it will also be important for Congress to hear from Milley, who is scheduled to testify in the House Armed Services Committee this month.
Milley believed the president suffered a mental decline after the November election, agreeing with a view shared by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a phone call they had on Jan. 8, according to officials. Milley also asked senior officers to swear an “oath” that Milley had to be involved if Trump gave an order to launch nuclear weapons, according to the book.
Associated Press writers Padmananda Rama, Lolita Baldor and Robert Burns contributed to this report.