PRESIDENT TRUMP: If it is actually true, which is hard to believe, that’s treason, and I would think… I’ve had so many calls today saying, “That’s treason!” You heard a lot of anger about China on trade and we made a great trade deal. You heard a lot of anger on China with the China virus. But for him to say that I would even think about attacking China? I think he’s trying to just get out of his incompetent withdrawal out of Afghanistan, the worst, the dumbest thing that anybody’s seen, probably the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to our country.
BUCK: Once again, Trump cuts right to the heart of the matter. Welcome back the Clay and Buck show. This is Buck; that was Trump. Clay, just for everyone, this is a quick review here, right? This is from Reuters: “The top U.S. general secretly called his Chinese counterpart twice over concerns then-President Donald Trump could spark a war with China as his potential election loss loomed and in its aftermath, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.” By the way, part of the whole system, the machinery of Woodward book promotion is hard at work here with the Washington Post.
CLAY: Great intel. You just gotta the bow down at ’em. They’re so good at this.
BUCK: They know how to do that, right? It also does seem to have been somewhat at least early corroboration and it certainly seems plausible. But before, Clay, we get into it, our initial reaction yesterday — I remember I said this to you — was, “Oh, they’re gonna say that he’s a hero for doing this, right?” The same way that the people that were trying to pretend Trump was crazy so he should be removed for the 25th Amendment, which is an abuse of the 25th Amendment.
Clearly the president was of sound mind, but it wouldn’t have mattered because they wouldn’t him gone. They’re already trying to normalize this back-channel communication. But what Trump said there, Clay, I think, is the single most important aspect of all this. The notion that Donald Trump was going to start a war with China is as insane as the notion that Donald Trump worked with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin to steal the 2016 election, but libs — because of Trump Derangement Syndrome — will believe anything about this guy.
CLAY: Yeah. Look, I just want to focus on… So I think if he did this in the way that it was reported, I do think it’s treason. Okay? And I want to focus on a couple of angles here that we started to talk about yesterday, but I think are significant. And you know this, Buck, as somebody who worked in intelligence. If you have the chairman of the Joint Chiefs reaching out to his Chinese counterparts to let them know that he won’t be executing orders on behalf of President Trump if he disagrees with them, basically?
That is such a fundamental fracturing of the American political process that it could have emboldened China to potentially invade Taiwan right? Milley thought that if you buy his version of the conversation that was told in the Woodward book that he was actually making the world safer. Chinese people who are advising Chairman Xi could have gone to him and said, “The United States politically is so fractured right now, the military will not support Donald Trump!
“Now is the time, if ever, for us to invade Taiwan. I don’t believe the U.S. will be able to respond militarily.” So, Buck, you know how this stuff works from an intelligence fashion. If you knew that the top military official — or one of them — was contacting through back channels one of our American officials and saying, “Hey, I’m not going to follow the orders of the commander-in-chief,” would that not embolden you in some way for the incompetence that you are seeing on the other side?
BUCK: Absolutely. It’s a very astute framing of the issue, Clay. I would also add a comparison, which is really just what you’re doing. But I would add a specific comparison: Remember during the transition with General Flynn, incoming national security adviser, we were told that it was a huge problem — a violation of the Logan Act — for the incoming national security adviser to have a conversation with his Russian counterpart, Ambassador Sergey Kislyak of the Russian embassy in the U.S.
And all he said, and we actually… We’ve all seen the transcript. By the way, no one went to prison for that leak of classified information — to the Washington Post, I might add. Somehow, they always get away with this stuff when it goes against Trump people. But that showed us that all he said was, “Don’t overreact. There’s a new team. We’re coming in; let’s calm things down a little bit.” And, Clay, they pretended that they could actually get General Flynn on a Logan Act violation —
BUCK: — a criminal violation for that and that he was a traitor. People called General Flynn, who served the military for 30 years, a traitor for that. He didn’t do anything. He wasn’t betraying the commander-in-chief. He was working on behalf of the incoming commander-in-chief, and that led to criminal investigation. That led to Flynn’s resignation. They tortured Flynn in the courts for years over this! Do you think they’re gonna do that to General Milley?
CLAY: Of course not. And that leads to my second part, which I want to hit when we when we come back into the final part of the first hour here. Democrats are defending Milley, and as we get ready to go to this break, I just want you to think about this. And this is where I say, “Precedent matters.” I don’t think Joe Biden is doing a good job as president.
CLAY: I don’t think that anybody out there —
BUCK: That’s a bold statement.
CLAY: A bold statement. Quinnipiac came out with their poll at some point Today show — I’ll read you some of the findings — Joe Biden’s approval rating has fallen to 42% in the most recent poll from Quinnipiac. Quinnipiac? How do you pronounce that? You say it.
CLAY: There you go. They do a regular poll, okay? So we’re gonna talk about that. But I just want you to think about this as we go to break: Even as much as we all agree Joe Biden is doing an awful job, how wrong would it be for a top military official to call China through back channels and say, “I just want you to know, Biden is in such poor mental state that no military official in the United States is going to listen to anything he tells us to do.”
BUCK: Can I also say, Clay, that even if — and the whole way they’re defending Milley on this, to the point you’re raising… Even if Milley had the purest of intentions in doing this by not — which I do not agree with. I think he’s insane. I think the notion of a war with China is crazy. But that he would do this in a way that would undermine the actual sitting commander-in-chief presents — and this what you’re saying.
BUCK: It presents an opportunity. Maybe the Chinese counterpart goes, “Well, if they’re having is this fight in the election that they worry about this…” By the way, forget about Taiwan or anything else for a second although that’s obviously something that would be a concern too. “Maybe we add fuel to the fire in America.”
CLAY: Great point.
BUCK: The Chinese have all kinds of cyber operations, all kinds of things they could do. It makes us even more vulnerable. It’s kind of like… You know, we’re a big American family, right? And a lot of people I know I believe in this rule there’s stuff you say within the family but outside you’re a united front, right?
We’re supposed to be a united front, especially against our biggest global rival and the only real military threat we face. And General Milley thought that this was a good idea? It’s the same reason that we say he has terrible decision-making and judgment when it comes to “white fragility” on the reading list for military officers.
CLAY: Yeah. Well, and giving up Bagram Air Force Base and the disaster in Afghanistan. But, again, I just want you to think — and we’re gonna talk about this when we come back — Democrats are defending Milley. But I just want you to think about the institution of the American presidency and the importance that we have a commander-in-chief who is a civilian and that the civilian gets to direct the military.
And when the military is saying, regardless of who the commander-in-chief is, that they’re not going to follow the lead of the commander-in-chief, the democratically elected president of the United States? Regardless of your political leanings, this is treasonous behavior laced with espionage, and I want to talk about that when we come back because it’s in the context of what Democrats are saying right now.
CLAY: One of the things that bothers me in general is when no matter what the facts are, your natural inclination is to act as if you are the defense attorney for a particular political party. And MSNBC, I think, does this on an unbelievable level, and I’m gonna unpack this a little bit more at the start of the second hour for why you should be concerned about the actions undertaken by General Milley no matter whether you’re Democrat, Republican, or independent, ’cause they go right to the heart of the constitutional responsibilities of the military in our republic. But, Buck, they’ve already come out with a statement — the Pentagon has — basically saying that he didn’t do anything, right?
BUCK: Here we go. This is from Lucas Tomlinson over at Fox News, from the “Pentagon: Gen. Milley ‘regularly communicates’ with foreign counterparts ‘including with China and Russia. These conversations remain vital to U.S. national security interests, reducing tensions, providing clarity and avoiding unintended consequences or conflict.
“‘His calls with the Chinese and others in October and January were in keeping with these duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability. All calls from the Chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency.'”
Clay, you could say they are calling this a perfectly fine phone call.
CLAY: (chuckling) That’s exactly what they’re doing. But the way that it’s been conveyed to Bob Woodward, at least through his book, is certainly not the way the Pentagon just tried to spin this. And what I would say is, it’s not a surprise, because we told you yesterday when this story broke — and again, I think you have to give credit to Bob Woodward and the masterful ability he has as books come out to distribute newsworthy tidbits to the different news organizations, so they end up being discussed.
But Joy Reid on MSNBC immediately came out and said what we’re about to play for you. But before you listen to this, I want you to just think, if General Milley had gotten on the phone with China and he had said, “Joe Biden, his mental faculties have declined to such an extent that we are not in the military ever going to follow his orders. We have made a pact. We want to let you know that if he decides that he wants to attack China, we’re never going to do it,” would Joy Reid be saying what she did last night? Listen.
JONATHAN LEMIRE: Senator Cruz and others suggesting it’s almost traitorous behavior, uh, from Milley to talk to the Chinese like that — and, in fact, Senator Rubio called for Joe Biden to fire him.
REID: Yeah, uh, okay good luck with that, because he seems to be the greatest patriot that was on duty during the previous administration. This is General Milley, again, who I have to say, is emerging as a pretty important and heroic American figure in this era. Milley reportedly told his counterpart, “This may look unsteady, but that’s the nature of democracy,” and this is him talking with Chinese General Li. General Li, he says, “We are 100% steady. Everything’s fine! But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.” That might be the understatement of the year.
BUCK: He said, “If we’re going to attack you, I’ll let you know first.”
CLAY: “I’ll give you a heads-up.”
BUCK: As if war with China was imminent, because Trump was saying that there were some uncounted ballots in Georgia or double-counted ballots in Pennsylvania or whatever. Clay, this is lunacy, but it also falls right into the pattern. Remember the anonymous op-ed writer, and then we found out who the guy was, and every person…
I was in that White House sometimes. I knew lots of people the administration and spoke to president a bunch of times. Every person was like, “What? Who is this guy?” But remember his whole thesis was, “I have to stop President Trump,” the anonymous op-ed writer, “from doing what he wants to do because that’s how much I love the country,” and you had Democrats all over saying, “Oh, isn’t this great?” And this was true within the federal bureaucracy, too, people that were trying to thwart him. This is madness.
CLAY: I just want to say again he told the Chinese that if we were going to attack them, he would give them a heads-up, Buck!