Ex-Joint Chiefs chairman: Trump threat to use military on protesters 'very dangerous'

Ex-Joint Chiefs chairman: Trump threat to use military on protesters 'very dangerous'
© Greg Nash

Former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey has joined the dissenting voices of retired generals who have criticized President TrumpDonald John TrumpSecret Service members who helped organize Pence Arizona trip test positive for COVID-19: report Trump administration planning pandemic office at the State Department: report Iran releases photo of damaged nuclear fuel production site: report MORE for his handling of nationwide protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd last week.

"The idea that the president would take charge of the situation using the military was troubling to me," Dempsey told NPR Thursday.

He added, "The idea that the military would be called in to dominate and to suppress what, for the most part, were peaceful protests — admittedly, where some had opportunistically turned them violent — and that the military would somehow come in and calm that situation was very dangerous to me."

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Trump mobilized the federal forces to Washington, D.C., and encouraged the country's governors to deploy their respective national guards, telling them earlier in the week that they needed to "dominate" protesters.

The president has faced considerable backlash from members of the military community over the move, including from his own former Defense secretary, James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump insulted UK's May, called Germany's Merkel 'stupid' in calls: report Mattis urges people to wear masks in PSA about 'nasty little virus' Dozens of GOP ex-national security officials to form group to back Biden: report MORE.

“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us,” Mattis said in his rebuke of the president. “We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership."

William Perry, who was Defense secretary during the Clinton Administration, told Politico that the U.S. military "was never intended to be used against American citizens, and it was never intended to be used for partisan political purposes."

Some GOP lawmakers have side with Mattis's assessment of the president.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said that she agreed with Mattis, adding that she is "struggling" with deciding if she will vote to reelect Trump.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called Mattis's statement "stunning and powerful," adding that the retired general was "an American patriot."