WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump can’t expect military aid from the Pentagon if he disputes the election results, according to the military’s top officer and the leading Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.
Trump has twice in recent days declined to promise a peaceful transition if he loses the Nov. 3 election. Democrats blasted him for the comments, and some Republican leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have promised an “orderly” handover of power should former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, win the election.
Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated in an Aug. 28 letter in response to questions from members of Congress that he views no role for the military in the election.
“The Constitution and laws of the U.S. and the states establish procedures for carrying out elections, and for resolving disputes over the outcome of elections,” Milley wrote. “State and Federal governments have qualified officials who oversee these processes according to those laws. We are a nation of laws. We follow the rule of law and have done so with regard to past elections, and will continue to do so in the future. I do not see the U.S. Military as part of this process; this is the responsibility of Congress, the Supreme Court, and components of the Executive Branch.”
On Thursday, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told CNN that he had been assured by military leaders that they would disregard illegal orders to interfere in the election.
“The military has made clear to me they will not follow an unlawful order, period,” Smith said.
Smith added that military leaders, this summer, resisted Trump’s call for federal troops to deal with unrest following the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by police in Minneapolis. But Defense Secretary Mark Esper pushed back against invoking the Insurrection Act that would have allowed active-duty troops, some poised in June on the outskirts of Washington, to quell disturbances.
Military officials were prepared to defy what was considered an unlawful order to confront protesters, Smith said.
“Their oath is to the Constitution, much to Donald Trump’s chagrin,” Smith said.
Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, in a statement Friday challenged his Republican colleagues to rebuke Trump more forcefully. He singled out Trump’s disparagement of mail-in ballots.
“President Trump is wrong and Republicans need to do more than just say they support a peaceful transition of power,” Reed said. “They need to reject Trump’s sabotage of the U.S. Postal Service and repeated attacks on free and fair elections. President Trump’s game is to cast doubt on the process and therefore the results. It’s a cynical move that hurts the country and does serious, long-term damage to our democracy.”
BERNIE SANDERS: It’s ‘an election between Donald Trump and democracy’ itself
OPINION: Ignore Trump’s strongman fantasies