House Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks (R-IN) questioned Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley on the importance of generals staying out of politics — after Milley gave a series of book interviews that has put him in the center of political debate.
Banks, a Navy reservist, asked Milley first about the importance of the military remaining “apolitical.”
“I think an apolitical military is critical to the health of this republic,” Milley responded unironically.
Banks then asked him what compelled him to spend a “significant amount of time” doing interviews for three different books published this year where he is characterized as disparaging his previous commander in chief, former President Donald Trump.
Milley said he believed it was part of his job to communicate with the media. “I think it’s part of a senior official’s job to be transparent and I believe in a free press.”
Banks then asked Milley, “What happens when a military general becomes a political figure? You would agree that’s dangerous?” Milley responded:
I think it’s dangerous and I have done my best to remain personally apolitical and have tried to keep the military out of actual domestic politics and I made a point of that from the time I became the chairman and especially beginning last summer.
Banks asked if he was “embarrassed” by what has come out in the latest book, Peril by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
Milley first said he had not read them, and then said he was not embarrassed but “concerned that there is mischaracterizations of me becoming very politicized as an individual and it’s my willingness to become politicized, which is not true.”
But Milley said he did not regret speaking with Woodward and that it was “important” to speak to the media.
He also denied that when he told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that he agreed with her on everything that he meant Trump’s mental state and said Woodward’s accounting of their conversation was “not exactly” accurate.
However, Milley would not say that Woodward’s reporting was “wrong.”
Woodward reported that Pelosi had requested a call with Milley, expressing concern over Trump’s mental state and that he might launch a nuclear attack. Milley, according to the book, said he agreed with her on everything and assured her that Trump would not be able to launch attacks on his own.
Banks also asked why Milley, according to the book, jotted down in notes two conservative news media outlets — Newsmax and the Epoch Times — on a list of those he associated with the January 6 Capitol riot, which also included “Nazis” and “Oath Keepers.”
Milley said he did not recall what he told Woodward about that. “I’m not recalling a conversation about Newsmax and Epoch Times.”
He did not respond on whether he had a notebook with those notes. “I don’t know,” he said, but he did say he would produce to Congress any notes that he had relayed to Woodward.