BUCK: In the Washington Post right now today, their big story: “Top General Was So Fearful Trump Might Spark War That He Made Secret Calls to his Chinese Counterpart.” This is in the book Peril by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. It says that General Mark Milley — we all know him right, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The guy that gave up Bagram. The guy who said that reading White Fragility in the military is a good idea.
We have a diverse reading list or something like that, he said. He called his Chinese counterpart before the election and after January 6 to avert a war with China. All right? Let me just… A little of the detail here, Clay, and then we gotta… This is pretty big stuff, because it goes to a lot of other things we saw playing out, both under the Trump administration at the end and now still with the Biden administration.
“Twice in the final months of the Trump administration, the country’s top military officer was so fearful that the president’s actions might spark a war with China that he moved urgently to avert armed conflict. In a pair of secret phone calls, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assured his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army, that the United States would not strike…
“One call took place on Oct. 30, 2020, four days before the election that unseated President D0nald [sic] Trump, and the other on Jan. 8, 2021, two days after the Capitol siege carried out by his supporters in a quest to cancel the vote. The first call was prompted by Milley’s review of intelligence suggesting the Chinese believed the United States was preparing to attack … stressing the rapport they’d established through a backchannel.
“‘General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.'” Clay, that is not a call the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States should be making!
CLAY: Isn’t that treason? When you really think about it, if we have a democratically elected president who is the commander-in-chief and is entrusted with… This is why we have a civilian who is in charge of the military and makes choices like that, wouldn’t it be a form…? I’m just saying asking. I’m not an expert on… You’re better plugged into the command structure and the organization of the United States bureaucracy beneath the commander-in-chief than I would.
But strictly from the perspective of top-down management, if I am the commander-in-chief and I believe that there is something that China is doing that our country needs to respond to, wouldn’t it be a form of treason for one of the top military officers in our country to notify a foreign adversary before we were taking action against them, in direct contravention of the orders of the president of the United States?
BUCK: Clay, this is outrageous.
CLAY: I mean, isn’t that a form…? I’m just saying, if you are consulting with the foreign adversary and thereby creating obstacles to what the president of the United States is ordering, then that, to me, seems like a form of espionage or treason —
CLAY: — that would be punishable under American law.
BUCK: Treason would be giving aid and comfort to the enemy under a technical federal statutory definition, right? So you’d have to argue that China was an enemy combatant in this. If we’re really gonna break this down, I think that that’s probably where that analysis would go. It certainly feels treasonous. It certainly feels like a betrayal of the trust put in that person.
I think you could certainly argue that it really amounts to a preparation for a mutiny of sort of against the commander-in-chief whereby this individual, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was willing to cut out the actual commander-in-chief of our country from the decision-making process and to give advance warning to the Chinese?
CLAY: That’s what I’m saying. I don’t understand how this guy… If this story is true, whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican or an independent, I don’t understand how you can justify him being in office in any way.
BUCK: I could tell you what the Democrats, if Donald Trump had done this — and he never did anything even remotely like this, although they used the word “treason” and “traitor” for Trump all the time over the Russia lies. If this were a Donald Trump-involved story, it would be the president “committed conspiracy to commit treason.” That’s what they would say, that these were the first steps.
These were the affirmative acts of a treasonous plot, but because, of course, it was against Trump, they’re going to say, “Oh, he was just defending the republic,” and all the rest of it. But, Clay, there were very real implications. And this is something that I think everyone does need to keep in mind. Need to remind each other of this. There were very real implications from the Democrat-aligned corporate media pretending for four years that Donald Trump was not of sound mind, that Donald Trump could start a war with some foreign country.
Not even just North Korea or China. Canada! They said that Donald Trump was some reckless loose cannon. That narrative. People in positions of authority in the government read the bull crap in the New York Times and the Washington Post every day. Their thinking is influenced by it, and so the lies that the media apparatus is willing to tell to take Trump down in this case, I think, played out with unbelievable consequences.
CLAY: Well, let’s just think about this for a minute. And again, this news has just come out, right, so we’re breaking it down in real time. He had to… Milley or someone that he was close to had to be Bob Woodward’s source here. So he is bragging to Bob Woodward about not being willing to follow the direction of his direct superior, the democratically elected president of the United States, which is how military coups end up occurring in other countries. Whether you agree —
CLAY: That’s right. That’s what I’m saying.
BUCK: They always think they’re the heroes. That’s the whole point.
CLAY: That is why we specifically put a democratically elected official above the military, because there’s always been the threat — read a history book for once — of a highly leveraged political general deciding to use his military to execute a coup and take over a country. It still happens all the time today, but it has been the number one way, I would say — and you probably agree, as somebody that’s studied history. The number one way that governments lose their power is typically the military refuses to accede to the directives of the political figures.
BUCK: Oh, yeah. Most coups actually come from the internal circle of the most powerful around the actual regime. I’ve read academic studies on this. This has been looked at over time. Clay, with General Milley here saying this, you’re right. He’s playing to the Trump Derangement Syndrome Democrat Party — or, rather, by doing this, he thought he’d be a hero in their eyes if this ever came to light.
But let’s think about what he’s really talking about here. He believed that Trump was just going to say start a war with China for no reason? This guy is in charge of the United States military at a very senior level, and he really thought that? This is… This is deranged! This is absurd. It’s deeply deranged — and, by the way, he still has the job!
CLAY: That’s what I’m saying. That’s what I’m saying, Buck, and he not only is this story out there, but it’s like he’s bragging about what he did, intentionally to Woodward and/or whoever he told this story to, whether it was Bob Woodward directly or whether it was someone else in his circle who he told to talk to Bob Woodward. In other words, I don’t think a story like this, Buck, gets out accidentally. He had to acquiesce to it being told.
So it was either him or somebody in his circle of power that was telling this story. And again, I just come back to, like, strip aside who the president is. Strip aside who the country that we are in conflict with, in some way, is. If you heard that a top general had been having back-channel conversations in order to circumvent the leadership of the democratically elected president of the United States, that is flagrantly unconstitutional behavior as a military official on his part. And, remember, we got Donald Trump impeached because of a public phone call —
BUCK: That’s right.
CLAY: — that he had with the president of Ukraine that people said was inappropriate. We’re talking about a general, someone who is not elected to a position, having a secret phone call with the country that I think it’s fair to say — multiple secret phone calls and conversations with the country that I think almost every single person out there listening to us right now would argue — is the biggest enemy of the United States in the world.
BUCK: Oh, there’s no question. Is the only real challenge to the United States, Clay, and this also comes… First of all, the Democrats who read this story… The Washington Post publishes this. It’s obviously in the Woodward book; so it’s not their scoop, but they’re giving a lot of… I mean, there’s a very close relationship with Woodward, for obvious reasons, and the Post, and they’re giving a big megaphone to this. Democrats think this is great! Remember, Democrats got enthusiastic, excited about using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump. They loved that story. That was something that would get them excited right away.
CLAY: I get that.
BUCK: They do not care about the Constitution, the command, or institutions of government. It’s all a game to them in order to get what they want and have their people in power, because you cannot look at this and come away thinking anything other than, “This is reckless. It undermines the commander-in-chief.” I mean, war with China? We’re not talking about some peace negotiation with some country we could give a crap about at the end of the day. This is China!
CLAY: It feels like espionage to me. It feels like treason. It feels like actual collusion with China as opposed to the bull crap version of Russia collusion that we had. And it totally undermines the entire purpose of having a civilian in charge of our armed forces.
BUCK: We’ll come back and do more of this, plus the Blinken testimony going on at Capitol Hill, secretary of state. “How was the Afghanistan thing such a debacle?” “Uhh, I don’t know. I went to Harvard. I’m fancy.”
CLAY: How is this guy still in position of power at all?
BUCK: Well, what I wanted to ask you… I don’t know if you’re talking about Blinken or Milley. It works for both.
CLAY: Milley, I think, in particular. (chuckles)
BUCK: I would argue that Milley’s job security as chairman of the JCS under mine is strengthened by this story. I think he’s a true anti-Trump believer now and so he’s even less likely to get pushed out. That’s what I would say. That’s what I would argue, at least.
CLAY: Blockbuster news in many ways, I think, associated with this claim that General Milley was having behind-the-scenes conversations with his Chinese counterparts, essentially letting them know either, “I’m not going to execute the orders that were given to me by the democratically elected president of the United States, Donald Trump,” or, “I’m going to give you a heads-up before we take military action.”
Buck and I are having the discussion in the last segment, again, as this news is breaking, and my immediate read on it is, “This is treason. This is espionage.” So I want to take it out of the current Donald Trump dynamics, and let’s just go to history. Okay? Let’s pretend that we had a really good relationship with Japan in early December or late November of 1941, and we got a secret phone call from a Japanese military member.
And he said, “Hirohito has lost his mind over here in Japan. He’s enthralled with the Axis Powers. He and Hitler are having secret communications, and I want to let you know something. I think he’s about to launch an unprovoked attack against you in the United States — and it’s going to happen, I believe, at Pearl Harbor, your Pacific military base.”
Well, we would like to have that information, and certainly it would be helpful to us. Would that be treason, in your mind, on behalf of the Japanese general who was giving that information to his American counterpart in advance and in direct opposition to the military planning of Japan? I think almost all of you out there listening right now would say, “Man, that guy in Japan would be committing treason against his country and would certainly be guilty of espionage.”
I’m using a historical analogy outside of the United States because I think a lot of times Donald Trump himself is so freighted, Buck, with emotional responses that it’s hard for people to think rationally. But when I hear that report from Bob Woodward, I immediately think, “This is treason, this is espionage — and not only that, Milley is bragging about it!” Bragging about it, Buck.
BUCK: Now we have the General Milley episode after we had been, for four years, told constantly, Clay, that Trump was “a threat to our government institutions.” That was the line. It was always “Trump is undermining our institutions.” It was a very vague claim. What does that even mean, and why were there never any specifics? Saying mean things to CNN journalists is not “undermining our government,” but they acted like it was.
Now we see once again, they tried the quasi-legal coup of the Mueller probe, they tried the quasi-legal coup of the 25th Amendment pretending Trump was crazy when really they make disagreed with him — and, fortunately, they couldn’t pull that one off — and now we find yet another instance. We’re gonna get all these lectures on January 6th the worst thing ever; so scary, almost overthrew the government. The most powerful military officer in uniform in the country having conversations with our greatest adversary that he will go against the will of the commander-in-chief.
CLAY: The talk was that Trump was going to use the military to overthrow democracy in the United States. The reality based on this Bob Woodward reporting is that the military was going to overthrow Donald Trump if they needed to, and they weren’t going to accede to their constitutional obligations to allow the commander-in-chief to make decisions with the military.
Again, this goes to the essence of what our framers believed based on looking at history. And, by the way, it was a present and reality history that weren’t living in. Napoleon — not much time after our own revolution, like many military generals before — had used the military to stage a coup in France. This was the fear for a long time in America, that at some point a powerful ruler who had military background would use the military to overthrow existing civilian government.
The reason why our commander-in-chief is a civilian, even though he may have had military experience, is expressly to make it clear that the military serves at the behest and the request and the command of the commander-in-chief. And what General Milley is bragging about in this Woodward book is directly contravening, potentially, the orders that are given to him by his superior which is the exact opposite…
Look, we had all these Democrats excited that the only person to lose their job over the Afghan debacle was the lieutenant colonel who came out and said this is a debacle; our military leaders failed us. He lost his job because he spoke outside the command in a public fashion in his uniform.
BUCK: And look at what they were willing to take action against — and I mean real action — when Trump was president. They had the whole Russia collusion, which was a fabrication; it was a lie. That was a conspiracy theory made real as a weapon in politics by the media, the intelligence apparatus — which, fortunately, I know too well having come from that world — and the Democrat Party all working together, the Hillary-paid-for dossier, Russiagate, all of it together. And then it was we need to impeach Trump because of conversations he had in the framework of dealing with the big lie of Russia.
CLAY: Public conversations! Real, public, Buck. They had transcripts of these. It’s not like a hidden conversation like Milley’s was.
BUCK: No, but I’m talking about the ten instances of “possible corruption” that they put in the Mueller report first and foremost where nothing actually happened —
BUCK: — but it was just responses or people testifying that there was some kind of a conversation that may have involved interfering with a government process, essentially, interfering with the investigation of Donald Trump himself, right, that he was intervening in a way that was improper. He didn’t actually intervene, didn’t actually fire Mueller, didn’t do any of these things. They impeached him, Clay, for that.
And then, to your point, they impeached him again like the sociopaths that run the Democrat Party are, for a conversation about Hunter Biden corruption in Ukraine that obviously was corruption. He was getting special treatment because his daddy was VP, and yet we went after him for that.
CLAY: It was not even a secret call, the Ukraine call!
BUCK: They’re going to look at this story with Milley now and say, “Not only,” Clay, “Is it not treason,” which is what you’ve been saying. I think you can certainly… I would say “conspiracy to commit treason” —
BUCK: — might be what you could get away with in a court on this. They’re gonna say, “He’s a patriot. He’s a hero for stepping out in this way!” The same way that Afghanistan is a huge success, Clay. Don’t you see the pattern?
CLAY: Yeah. And this is where some people get mad, but I look at this from a legal perspective. And I want to apply the same precedents so that whatever rule we apply now makes sense in the years ahead. Just think about this for a minute. Whether or not you like Joe Biden, if Joe Biden decided to undertake a military action and the head of his military said, “No, I refuse to do that and I’m going to call our enemy, and I’m going to tell them what we are potentially going to do so it doesn’t work,” that’s not right. That’s treason no matter who the president is.
BUCK: The only case where it would be acceptable would be if it was in response to a clearly unlawful order under UCMJ. That’s it!
BUCK: But there was no order here. This was a make-believe back channel, “Oh, I’ll get you the information ahead of time ’cause, you know, crazy Orange Man Bad” might start a war with you guys.” There’s no legal order to… That’s just defying the will of the commander-in-chief in advance. That’s just saying that I’m going to —
CLAY: It’s espionage to me — and it’s treason at the most, espionage minimal. And to your point, you can always get somebody for conspiracy. That’s what we always said in criminal law back in the day.
BUCK: How can you not get court-martialed for this, if this is true? I wonder, by the way, what Milley’s gonna say about this. He hasn’t been asked yet. I’m wondering if he’s gonna say, “Oh, I can’t speak about it,” or “Oh, that’s not true.” We’ll see.