Rep. Liz Cheney leapt to the defense on Wednesday of Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for ‘standing in the breach’ in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on Congress and apologizing for attacks by her Republican colleagues.
Milley was appearing before Congress for a second day to answer questions about the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
He has become a hate figure for some Republicans amid reports he tried to rein in Donald Trump’s worst impulses at the end of his presidency.
On Wednesday he was accused of ‘dereliction of duty’ and asked to resign during a hearing on Afghanistan.
Cheney began her allotted five minutes by comparing Milley and his concerns with her colleagues who were prepared to overlook the violence of Jan. 6.
‘General Milley, you found yourself in your constitutionally prescribed role, standing in the breach,’ said Cheney, who was ousted from a party leadership position for criticizing Trump and one of only two Republicans on the House committee investing the Jan. 6 violence.
‘And for any member of this committee, for any American to question your loyalty to our nation, to question your understanding of our constitution, your loyalty to our constitution, your recognition and understanding of the civilian chain of command is despicable.
‘I want to apologize for those members of this committee who have done so, and I want to thank you for standing in the breach when so many, including many in this room, failed to do so.’
Rep. Liz Cheney praised Gen. Mark Milley during a House hearing on Afghanistan, apologizing for the conduct of her Republican colleagues who demanded his resignation
Her intervention came during a House Armed Services Committee hearing into the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
And they demonstrate how attitudes towards America’s top general have become something of a Litmus test for Trump loyalists.
Several Republican members used their time to question Milley about details of a new book, ‘Peril,’ by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
It describes how Milley made two calls to his Chinese counterpart, including one in which he said he would offer early warning of any attempt by Trump to launch an attack on China.
It triggered allegations from Trump and his supporters that Milley was guilty of treason. Milley said the calls were part of the normal interactions between senior military figures and were done with the full knowledge of the federal government.
Previous accounts of Trump’s final days suggested Milley feared Trump’s election loss could prompt him to lead a military coup and this temper represented a national security risk.
In her impassioned defence, Cheney turned things around to accuse her colleagues of ‘whitewashing’ the actions of Trump’s supporters on Jan. 6.
‘It was an effort to stop the constitutionally prescribed process of counting electoral votes – the first time in our nation’s history that we did not have a peaceful transfer of power,’ she said.
‘In the aftermath of that attack, many of the members of our constitutional system failed to do their duty. Many of them punted.
‘Many of them today are still attempting to obstruct the investigation into that attack, attempting to whitewash what happened.’
She spoke after multiple members of Congress called for Milley’s resignation.
Rep Vicky Hartzler said his calls to China meant he should resign.
‘I just think that’s against our country that you would give our number one adversary that information and tell him that,’ she said.
Trump loyalist Matt Gaetz waved a copy of the book as he accused Milley of spending too much time talking to authors and burnishing his image.
Matt Gaetz accused senior Pentagon figures of failing to do their jobs. ‘But if we didn’t have a president that was so addled, you all would be fired, because that is what you deserve,’ he said
‘You said yesterday that you weren’t going to resign when senators asked you this question, and I believe that you guys probably won’t resign,’ he said.
‘You seem to be very happy failing up over there. But if we didn’t have a president that was so addled, you all would be fired.’
That line of attack was followed up by Rep. Ronny Jackson, who accused Milley of being too focused on book interviews and defending the Biden administration’s idea of a ‘woke’ military.
‘I submit to you sir, that you should resign because of your dereliction of duty to this country in your ability, your inability to do your job and protect this country,’ he said.
Milley looked as if he did not need anyone to defend himself from criticism, chuckling as he said: ‘I serve at the pleasure of the president, Mr. Jackson.’
A day earlier, Republican Senator Dan Sullivan suggested Milley would be executed in China for offering an adversary early warning of attack.
‘If the head of the [People’s Liberation Army] called you and said, ‘Hey, we’re getting ready to invade Taiwan’ and [Chinese President] Xi Jinping found out about it, he’d be shot,’ said Sullivan.