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Cheney came up with idea of Defense secretaries letter, says fellow ex-chief

Former Vice President Dick Cheney came up with the idea for nearly a dozen former Pentagon chiefs to write an opinion piece urging current Defense Department officials to stay out of President TrumpDonald TrumpSchumer: Impeachment trial will be quick, doesn't need a lot of witnesses Nurse to be tapped by Biden as acting surgeon general: report Schumer calls for Biden to declare climate emergency MORE's bid to overturn the results of the presidential election, according to one signatory.

"The idea for this statement actually originated from Vice President Cheney," said William J. Perry, who served as former President Clinton's Defense secretary.

"Each of us swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution; that oath does not change according to party designation," he added. 

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In the op-ed published Sunday, 10 former Defense secretaries warned Trump's efforts to contest the election takes the country "into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory." 

“Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic," the former officials wrote. "We call upon them, in the strongest terms, to do as so many generations of Americans have done before them. This final action is in keeping with the highest traditions and professionalism of the U.S. armed forces, and the history of democratic transition in our great country.”

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Two of President Trump's former Defense secretaries, Mark EsperMark EsperTrump administration official Norquist sworn in as acting Pentagon chief Watch Out: Progressives are eyeing the last slice of the budget Biden needs to fill the leadership gaps on Day One MORE and James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage Senate confirms Austin to lead Pentagon under Biden Overnight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 MORE, signed the op-ed. 

Trump has refused to concede his defeat to President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBudowsky: A Biden-McConnell state of emergency summit DC might win US House vote if it tries Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman inks deal with IMG Models MORE, and a number of GOP lawmakers in both chambers of Congress this week are set to contest the results of the Electoral College.

Courts have found no evidence of widespread fraud in the election and have ruled against various challenges by the Trump campaign.

Trump has been criticized in the past for politicizing the Defense Department, most notably when officials accompanied him for a photo op at a church near the White House after Lafayette Square was forcibly cleared of protesters by police.

Biden's transition team has also complained about a lack of cooperation from the Pentagon, from which Esper was removed shortly after the election.

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Last week, a Biden adviser told NPR the Pentagon had not taken a meeting with transition officials since Dec. 18. 

“It kind of comes back to the lack of visibility that we have right now into a number of critical issues relating to military operations because of DoD’s obstruction and roadblocks,” incoming national security adviser Jake SullivanJake SullivanBiden talks NATO, climate change in first presidential call with France's Macron Biden must wait weekend for State Department pick White House: It will be 'a bit of time' before Biden's first foreign trip MORE said.

Cheney, a Republican, has been critical of Trump during his time in the White House, mainly on issues of foreign policy.