Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby took questions from reporters on Wednesday, who were primarily interested in allegations that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley undermined President Trump's authority when he served under that administration.
Kirby was asked about the calls Milley reportedly made to China regarding the relationship between the two nations, and allegedly made as a reaction to what Milley believed was Trump's instability. This briefing came after the White House defended Milley.
Kirby was asked about the claim that the calls made by Milley were not authorized by the White House and that "it was policy at the time that there was no senior government engagement with China. Is that true? Could that be possibly be true?"
"I couldn't answer that. I mean, those were before, that was time before we were in office. I can't speak to what the policies were for international communications were. Again, you saw it in the Chairman's statement, why he was having these conversations, and you also saw in his statement that those communications were staffed and coordinated. I would point you back to what the Chairman said."
Kirby defended the calls as "typical," saying that "When the Secretary makes calls... these are important communications, I mean, they don't just pick up the phone to talk about sports, they talk to iron out issues. And, and so it's important that the interagency have a sense of, of how that win. And that's, and that's very typical."
"So the chairman usually coordinates with the White House prior to the conversation, especially if it's about certain topics?" Kirby was asked.
"In a typical call, particularly with, you know, a nation like China, that would be a fully coordinated conversation," Kirby said. "And there would be, there would be the sharing of information, after the fact."
"The White House, basically and President Trump back then, former President Trump would actually know about the conversation before taking place and would know what happened in that conversation. So for him to say, if the allegations made in the book by Woodward and Costa were true, then the chairman should be put on trial for treason."
"Oh, my goodness," Kirby said.
"These are not my words," the reporter defended his question.
"I can't speak to process these, before this administration took office, I just can't. As much as I know you'd like me to I just can't do that. what I'm telling you is typically, that when the chairman or the secretary, they interact with their counterparts, it's a function of the job they have to do that," Kirby said.
"That the that these conversations are, are properly coordinated. That's that's the way it goes. Now is every single interaction written down and sent in a memo? Probably not," Kirby said, answering his own question. "But ones that that are, you know, that that are of consequence, and they almost all are? They are they are fully coordinated, I can't speak to process these, you know, previous to January 20 of this year. I can just tell you that how how we're approaching the issue in this administration."
Kirby took a question about the administration's transparency with regard to the allegations against Milley, and transcripts were requested of Milley's October 30 call with his Chinese counterpart.
The request was made by the reporter "especially noting that the previous administration released a transcript of President Trump's conversation with President Zelensky. So I'm hoping that this administration can be just as transparent."
"I'm certainly not going to sign us up to releasing transcripts of conversations that occurred before we took office," Kirby said. "And I just, I can't do that. I'd refer you to the chairman's office if, if you want more context on that, but we're not in a position to do that."
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