GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op

Several Republican senators backed Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley’s statement on Thursday voicing regret for participating in President TrumpDonald John TrumpOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Pelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate MORE’s photo-op outside St. John’s Episcopal Church last week. 

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate GOP aims to confirm Trump court pick by Oct. 29: report The Hill's Campaign Report: GOP set to ask SCOTUS to limit mail-in voting Senate GOP sees early Supreme Court vote as political booster shot MORE (R-S.C.) said he has nothing but “deep admiration for and total confidence in” Milley, following the general’s statement that he should not have been at the photo-op. 

“I support his statement in both substance and spirit regarding the recent presidential visit to St. Johns,” Graham tweeted Thursday. 

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“General Milley is a tremendous military leader who understands the long tradition of maintaining an apolitical, nonpartisan military,” Graham added. 

Milley was photographed in uniform walking with Trump to the church last Monday, shortly after protesters near the White House were forcibly cleared from Lafayette Square by federal law enforcement and National Guardsmen. 

Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonGOP brushes back charges of hypocrisy in Supreme Court fight Trump uses bin Laden raid to attack Biden Battle lines drawn on precedent in Supreme Court fight MORE (R-Ark.) also voiced support for Milley’s statement, noting that he thinks Milley regrets wearing his camouflage utility uniform at the time. 

“I know one thing Gen. Milley regrets is that he was at the White House in his camouflage utility uniform,” Cotton said on Fox News. “By custom and courtesy, military officers always wear dress uniforms there.”

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He said Milley was on his way to the FBI’s downtown command center and in the same uniform as troops on the street. 

“I know this, he is acting in the finest traditions of military leadership, and he is taking responsibility not just for the reality, but for perceptions,” Cotton said. “And if he thinks the perceptions reflected negatively on the commander in chief, all the way down to our young troops who were out in Lafayette Park or on the streets of Washington, D.C., last week, then he's going to take responsibility for it as a military leader, and I commend him for that and we all should.” 

Asked about Milley’s statement, Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate GOP aims to confirm Trump court pick by Oct. 29: report Senate GOP sees early Supreme Court vote as political booster shot Pence defends Trump's 'obligation' to nominate new Supreme Court justice MORE (R-Alaska) told reporters she thought it was “a good strong statement for him to make.” 

“I appreciated it,” she added. 

Milley said he regrets participating in the photo-op during a recorded message that aired at the graduation of the National Defense University on Thursday morning. 

“I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics,” he said. 

Trump has been widely criticized for the photo-op, including from his former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisBiden courts veterans amid fallout from Trump military controversies Trump says he wanted to take out Syria's Assad but Mattis opposed it Gary Cohn: 'I haven't made up my mind' on vote for president in November MORE

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the decision, comparing it to former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill inspecting World War II bombing damage in 1941.

"For this president, it was powerful and important to send a message that the rioters, the looters the anarchists, they will not prevail, that burning churches are not what America is about,” McEnany said.