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Joint Chiefs Chair Milley says he wasn't trying to 'usurp authority' with China calls

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that key officials were aware and even helped coordinate his now-controversial calls with China made late in the Trump administration, The Washington Post reports. 

The first call, Milley said, was directed by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, the Post reports. 

The chairman went on to testify that 11 people were present for his second call to China — which followed the Jan. 6 Capitol riot — and that he informed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows of the call after the fact. Both calls were intended to reassure Beijing that the U.S. would not attack the country, which Milley said U.S intelligence had flagged as a concern of Chinese officials, per CNBC

Milley also added that he was not trying to undermine the authority of former President Donald Trump, which many accused him of doing when news of the calls came to light.

"At no time was I attempting to change or influence the process, usurp authority, or insert myself into the chain of command, but I am expected to give my advice and ensure that the president is fully informed," Milley said.

The correspondence with China was initially reported by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their new book Peril. Read more at NBC News.