Top General: Military Won't Get Involved in Contested Election

Joint Chiefs of Staff chair Mark Milley says courts, Congress would have to settle any such dispute
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 29, 2020 8:00 AM CDT
Gen. Milley on Military Involvement in Contested Election: Nope
In this Feb. 26, 2020, file photo, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley speaks at hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Two weeks ago, what the National Review calls a "bizarre open letter" emerged regarding the upcoming election. The letter from the Defense One site offered a hypothetical in which President Trump refuses to leave office in January after losing the election, then reminded Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Mark Milley it would be his duty "to give unambiguous orders directing US military forces to support the Constitutional transfer of power." On Friday, Milley, in response to questions from two Democratic members of the House Armed Services Committee, said the US military won't be getting involved in anything election-related on his watch. "I believe deeply in the principle of an apolitical US military," Milley said in a statement, per the AP. "In the event of a dispute over some aspect of the elections, by law US courts and the US Congress are required to resolve any disputes, not the US military."

He added: "I foresee no role for the US armed forces in this process." The questions were sent to Milley by Democratic Reps. Elissa Slotkin and Mikie Sherrill after an Armed Services Committee hearing in July. CNN notes there have been disputed presidential elections before—including 2000's showdown between Al Gore and George W. Bush—but that civilian officials hashed all that out; the military played no part. "When people are scared they trust the military to do the right, the legal, the constitutional, the decent thing, even though it's not their job, even though in this case it would be an extraordinary dangerous precedent for democracy in America," a foreign and defense policy expert tells the outlet. And if Trump tried to round up the military to use for his own political purposes, rather than in the interest of national security? "I will not follow an unlawful order," Milley responded. (More Mark Milley stories.)

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