Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley recorded a short video that aired soon after the General appeared at a church with President Donald Trump that had just been cleared of protestors. In the video, he called his presence at the church “a mistake.”
Milley and Defense Secretary Mark Esper had joined the president to pay a surprise visit to the historic Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Lafayette Square, during which the President held up a Bible for photographers. Milley appeared conspicuous as a portly lone figure in camouflage fatigues shortly thereafter with the President at the church. This reinforced the assumption that the Pentagon was in charge.
Just minutes before his appearance at the church, President Trump gave a speech at the White House denouncing “acts of domestic terror.” He also stated that the United States was in the grips of professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, and criminals.
It was during this time that the church, just a few blocks from the White House, was being cleared off protestors by the police.
was also involved.
During his speech, Trump stated that he was putting Milley in charge of protest responses and threatened to mobilize thousands of troops.
This incensed several retired generals and admirals, including former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. They argued that the President was breaking the Constitution, which preserves and protects the right for peaceful protest, and that the military was designed to be apolitical.
Milley heard that criticism from his peers and reacted quickly, putting out the video, which was part of a prerecorded video commencement address to the National Defense University. Yet, the video was not followed by a news conference, thus sparing him from answering any questions, which are sure to be forthcoming. However, Milley has not appeared publicly or held a press conference since that night.
Milley — while uttering that his presence at the church was a mistake — stopped short of apologizing, despite what is being trumpeted by the mainstream media.
“I should not have been there,” Milley said, of the church photo flap. “My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics,” he added.
“As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from, and I sincerely hope we all can learn from it. We who wear the cloth of our nation come from the people of our nation and we must hold dear the principle of an apolitical military that is so deeply rooted in the very essence of our republic,” Milley said.
After the walk at the church, Milley was seen walking around D.C. after curfew to observe National Guard personnel. He was asked by the media what his message was for Guard troops on duty in D.C. Milley responded, “Allow freedom to assemble, freedom of speech. That’s perfectly fine.”
On Monday night, the General spoke with Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and told him that he was only in Lafayette Square to ensure that National Guard troops acted appropriately. Smith said he believed Milley but that the “optics sent a different message.” Interestingly enough, Milley made no mention of that in his recorded video message.
Esper has also distanced himself from the photos taken at the church and stated that he does not believe that the administration should invoke the Insurrection Act. He said that he has ordered a review of the National Guard’s actions, to be conducted by Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. The Pentagon stated that, “The report will address a range of issues, including training, equipping, organizing, manning, deployment, and employment of National Guard forces.”
President Trump did not react the way most people thought he would. He said that he did not have a problem with either Milley’s or Esper’s comments, “if that’s the way they feel.”