Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller stunned reporters with a bizarre, meandering interview in which he praised Russia and said he can’t wait to quit his post, according to a transcript released Friday.
Miller, appointed just two months ago by President Donald Trump, told reporters Thursday on a flight back to Washington that he had “professional respect for how they do things” in Russia. He said the nation had been dealt a “bad hand,” and played it “very, very well.”
Miller added: “I kind of, you know, like, professionally, I’m like, wow, they’re doing pretty well, and they’re using a lot of irregular warfare concepts, information, all this stuff, in a way that, you know, like … good on them.”
Miller presumably was not referring to such matters as the poisoning of dissidents. But aggressive efforts by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government and its supporters to utilize social media and other means to sow political discord in the U.S. is a major concern that has been flagged by America’s intelligence community. Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to aid Trump documented by Special Counsel Robert Mueller proved a political drag on much of Trump’s term.
The acting defense secretary, a hawkish Special Forces veteran and former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, also said he would have liked to deal with the delays and cost overruns that plagued the Pentagon’s F-35 joint strike fighter and the littoral combat ship programs. But he added: “I cannot wait to leave this job — believe me.”
Still, Miller said a “part of me is, like, I would have loved to have gotten involved in the acquisition process and try . . . and you know, talk about wicked problem.”
Miller’s thoughts became so mangled at one point the Defense Department’s transcript reads: “Blah blah bluh blah.”
The Guardian’s world affairs reporter Julian Borger called it a “gobsmacking incoherent briefing.”
Here’s another Miller nugget:
An unidentified Defense Department official explained Miller’s confounding comments by telling The Washington Post that he “often uses casual and humorous language with reporters … during travel. That characteristic does not convey well in a written transcript, but was obvious to participants,” the source added.
Miller and his entourage were returning from visits to Defense Department sites in Tennessee, Kentucky and Colorado.
At some point, Miller is likely to be called on the carpet to answer reports that the Pentagon rebuffed requests for the National Guard to be quickly deployed to respond to the right-wing insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol last week and rampaged through offices hunting for politicians.
Inspectors general of the Departments of Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, and the Interior have launched joint investigations into the Jan. 6 attack and the inadequate response to the dire threat, it was announced Friday.
Miller was named to his post in early November after Trump tweeted that he had “terminated” then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who had gotten at cross purposes with the president. At the time, retired four-star U.S. Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey called Miller a “perfectly good, experienced combat soldier,” but said he is “unqualified for this office.”
McCaffrey warned then that Trump was gearing up to seize the White House with the help of some Pentagon leaders. “There is some crazy thinking going on inside that White House,” he said.
Miller’s full comments can be read here.
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