All 10 living former US Defense secretaries signed letter to Trump in two days: report

All 10 living former US Defense secretaries signed letter to Trump in two days: report
© Getty Images

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 EsperCORRECTED: Overnight Defense: COVID-19 stymies effort to study sexual assault at military academies | Biden, Saudi king speak ahead of Khashoggi report Female generals' promotions held back over fears of Trump's response: report Overnight Defense: Army details new hair and grooming standards | DC National Guard chief says Pentagon restricted his authority before riot | Colorado calls on Biden not to move Space Command MORE and James MattisJames Norman MattisRejoining the Iran nuclear deal would save lives of US troops, diplomats The soft but unmatched power of US foreign exchange programs The GOP senators likely to vote for Trump's conviction 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."