Bob Woodward knocks down GOP claims of 'treason' against Trump in presidency's final days

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and other Republican senators suggested that Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Mark Milley undermined former president Donald Trump in his final days on the job, but two reporters who revealed some of his actions knocked down those conspiracy theories.

Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa reported that Milley spoke with his Chinese counterpart to ease tensions and avoid possible military conflict over mistaken intelligence reports about U.S. aggression, and they told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that GOP senators were wrong to suggest other administration officials were kept out of the loop.

"They're on a hair trigger with China, as we know, there are all these exercises around Taiwan, around the, in the South China Sea," Woodward said. "It's definitely true, and it's consistent with our reporting in the book. The idea is to avoid war, to de-conflict. If you put yourself in Milley's shoes here, four days before the election, Oct. 30, they get intelligence that China thinks we're going to attack them. This is the worst environment for a military man -- 'oh, my god, they think we're going to attack them.'"

"You might get a Pearl Harbor where somebody will take the first move advantage, as they call it, so he's trying to close this down," he added. "This is a crisis moment, this is a practical time when he has to talk to Li [Zuocheng] and say, 'No, no, no, this is in the a situation where we are going to attack,' like they had in their five-year relationship, they're always talking back and forth. I accept, and Bob Costa does, that this is exactly as it is described. But it was a national security crisis."

Milley told lawmakers that he notified then-Defense Secretary Mike Esper and then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of the talks, which were widely known across the Trump administration, and Costa knocked down claims by some Republicans that the general's actions were "treasonous."

"It's so important, whether you're a House Republican today or a House Democrat, to read the whole book," Costa said. "The context is there in the book, to not cherry-pick a paragraph and say, 'Well, that defines the entire story.' No, the book is the entire story of a dangerous transition. In particular, page 129 of the book details the whole conversation on Oct. 30. That whole conversation shows, based on our reporting, chairman Milley telling Gen. Li that you need to calm down. It's not some kind of tip-off about an attack. He's saying in historic context, you'll always see some escalation. There will be communication, as Bob Woodward just said. There has been a five-year relationship between Milley and Li, there is a level of trust there. He wanted to reemphasize that, to bring back the tensions, to avoid being on the brink of war."

"Our book also shows, as chairman Milley testified under oath, that he was reading other people in," Costa added. "In the prologue and throughout the book, you see Milley talking to other officials. We detail his conversations with the head of the NSA, Paul Nakasone. We see him talking to [then-CIA director] Gina Haspel about the China calls. He talks to the Joint Chiefs of Staff about the China calls. It's a dangerous story of a transition in total turmoil, the Milley component is part of it. That's what we're trying to really give readers a portrait of."

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