Former U.S. ambassador and defense official Eric Edelman said on Monday that it took only two days for all 10 former Defense secretaries to sign a letter that denounced efforts to involve the military in U.S. election disputes.
Edelman drafted the letter with the help of former vice president and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, ABC News reported. According to Edelman, Cheney told Edelman he would sign the letter if he convinced other Defense secretaries to do the same.
"There's the firing of Esper right after the election, there's the installation of this cadre of political appointees around (acting Secretary of Defense Chris) Miller there, there's the rush for the exit in Afghanistan," Edelman told ABC News with regards to motivation for the effort.
Edelman added that the letter was also motivated by concerns stemming from comments made by former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, who suggested in an interview with Newsmax in mid-December that the president might use martial law to change the outcome of the election in some battleground states.
Another former U.S. official told ABC News that the two Trump-era defense secretaries, Mark EsperMark EsperThree key behind-the-scenes figures in Jan. 6 probe Trump Defense chief blocked idea to send 250,000 troops to border: report Overnight Defense & National Security — Afghanistan concerns center stage with G-20 MORE and James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon chiefs to Congress: Don't default Pentagon chiefs say debt default could risk national security MORE, were initially reluctant before ultimately signing the letter.
"I think Secretary Mattis for good reasons was a little reticent," the former official told ABC News.
"He understandably feels that he as a retiree is still covered by the [Uniform Code of Military Justice], and you know, retired officers should not be criticizing the commander in chief, and they're not supposed to do that."
In their letter published in a Washington Post op-ed on Sunday, the former Defense secretaries warn that involving the U.S. armed forces in the election would lead into "unlawful and unconstitutional territory."
Addressing current Pentagon officials, the letter said, "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."