Repeated complaints from Trump questioning the validity of the election have sparked unprecedented concerns about the potential for chaos surrounding the election results. Some have speculated that the military could be called upon to get involved, either by Trump trying to use it to aid his re-election prospects, or as Democratic challenger Joe Biden has suggested, to remove Trump from the office. White House if he refuses to accept defeat. The military has categorically sought to quell this speculation and zealously protects its historically non-partisan nature.
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“I deeply believe in the principle of an apolitical US military,” Milley said in written responses to several questions posed by two Democratic members of the House Armed Services Committee. “If there is a dispute over some aspect of an election, the law obliges the US courts and the US Congress to resolve any dispute, not the US military. I do not foresee any role for the US armed forces in this process.
Milley’s tone reflects the long-held views of military leaders who insist that the country’s military remain out of politics and that the troops have vowed to protect the country and uphold the Constitution.
But the two members of Congress, Representatives Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, said on Friday that recent comments from Trump and his efforts to use the military to quell protests had fueled their concerns. Both lawmakers released Milley’s responses.
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“These are just cautious questions to ask given the things the president has said publicly,” Slotkin said, highlighting Trump’s use of the military to evacuate protesters from Lafayette Square and his suggestions that he could put law enforcement at the ballot box to ensure that the vote is conducted in a professional manner. Milley’s responses, she said, “demonstrated that the president has recognized that the role of the military in our elections is essentially to stay out; that the role of the military in the peaceful transition of power is to stay out.
Faced with polls showing he was lagging behind Biden, Trump said last month that it was too early to guarantee he would accept the election results.
” I have to see. Look… I have to see, ”Trump said on“ Fox News Sunday ”. “No, I’m not just going to say yes. I’m not going to say no. The Biden campaign at the time responded that “the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting intruders out of the White House.”
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Trump subsequently suggested that the election should be postponed, as the coronavirus pandemic has made it likely that it could take days or weeks to count postal ballots. But that idea was immediately rejected, including by leading Republicans in Congress, as the election date can only be changed by Congress.
Milley, known to be a student of military and constitutional history, anchored many of his answers in the nation’s founding document. When asked if the military would refuse an order from the president if he attempted to use military action for political purposes rather than national security, Milley said, “I will not follow an illegal order.
Sherrill, a former Navy helicopter pilot, said, “It’s personal to me. “
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She said the questions reflected concerns raised by her constituents and others across the country “as we see the president refusing to say he will accept defeat; as we see the President of the United States of America questioning our democracy and / or our ability to hold free and fair elections.
The attorney general and other cabinet members should be asked similar questions, she said.
Speculation about the military’s participation in elections is fueled by Trump’s tendency to use the military as a partisan prop. He sounded the alarm – and met resistance from the Pentagon – when he threatened to use the insurgency law to use troops for law enforcement during protests after the death of George Floyd. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has publicly stated that he is opposed to such a move – a position that enraged Trump and nearly cost Esper his job.
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Questions were also sent to Esper last month and responses were expected on Thursday. Esper is traveling to Asia this week, and Slotkin said he has yet to respond. Slotkin is a former CIA analyst and senior Pentagon policy adviser, and Sherrill served in the Navy for approximately 10 years.
This is the second time in recent months that Milley has taken a public stand against military involvement in politics. In June, he used a speech at the National Defense University to express his regret for walking with Trump on Lafayette Square in what turned out to be a photo op at public protests after the death of George Floyd.
He said photos of him there “sparked a national debate about the military’s role in civil society.” And he told the military audience: “We must bear in mind the principle of an apolitical army which is so deeply rooted in the very essence of our republic. “
© 2020 The Canadian Press