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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 TrumpProject Veritas surveilled government officials to expose anti-Trump sentiments: report Cheney: Fox News has 'a particular obligation' to refute election fraud claims The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? 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 EsperOvernight Defense: Former Navy secretary reportedly spent .4M on travel | Ex-Pentagon chief Miller to testify on Jan. 6 Capitol attack | Austin to deliver West Point commencement speech Trump's Navy secretary spent over M on travel during pandemic: report Court declines to dismiss Amazon challenge against JEDI decision MORE and James MattisJames Norman MattisBiden's is not a leaky ship of state — not yet Rejoining the Iran nuclear deal would save lives of US troops, diplomats The soft but unmatched power of US foreign exchange programs MORE, signed the op-ed. 

Trump has refused to concede his defeat to President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenFauci says school should be open 'full blast' five days a week in the fall Overnight Defense: Military sexual assault reform bill has votes to pass in Senate l First active duty service member arrested over Jan. 6 riot l Israeli troops attack Gaza Strip Immigration experts say GOP senators questioned DHS secretary with misleading chart 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 SullivanHouse lawmakers roll out bill to invest 0 million in state and local cybersecurity Blinken speaks with Israeli counterpart amid escalating conflict Biden sent letter to Palestinian president over 'current situations' MORE said.

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