Defense

Top general: Military will play no role in resolving any electoral dispute

Greg Nash

The U.S. military will play no role in resolving any dispute about the election, the country’s top general said in written testimony released Friday.

“In the event of a dispute over some aspect of the elections, by law U.S. courts and the U.S. Congress are required to resolve any disputes, not the U.S. military,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley wrote. “I foresee no role for the U.S. Armed Forces in this process.”

“I and every member of the Armed Forces take an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, and to follow the lawful orders of the chain of command,” he continued. “We will not turn our backs on the Constitution of the United States.”

Milley’s comments came in response to questions for the record from Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) and Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) that the pair had submitted to him after a House Armed Services Committee hearing last month.

The same questions were sent to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, but the lawmakers said he has not responded yet.

In addition to asking him about the military’s role in resolving any election dispute, the lawmakers asked Milley about any role for active-duty troops in administering the election or tallying results.

For that process, Milley also said there is no role for the military.

“The Constitution and laws of the U.S. and the states establish procedures for carrying out elections, and for resolving disputes over the outcome of elections,” Milley said. “State and federal governments have qualified officials who oversee these processes according to those laws. We are a nation of laws. We follow the rule of law and have done so with regard to past elections, and will continue to do so in the future.

“I do not see the U.S. military as part of this process; this is the responsibility of Congress, the Supreme Court, and components of the Executive Branch.”

Milley’s answers do not depart from long standing views in the military about remaining apolitical. Earlier this month, the Pentagon’s top spokesman dismissed debate about military involvement in the election as “unserious thought.”

But the answers come as the candidates in the 2020 president election themselves stoke questions about military involvement.

President Trump has raised the prospect that he won’t accept the results in November, claiming that mail-in voting could lead to widespread voter fraud despite no supporting evidence.

“I have to see,” Trump told Fox News’s Chris Wallace last month when asked if he would accept the Election Day results. “No, I’m not just going to say yes, I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time either.”

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said in June that he’s “absolutely convinced” the military would step in if Trump rejected the results.

“I promise, I am absolutely convinced they will escort him from the White House with great dispatch,” Biden said on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.”

Milley’s comments also come after Trump has turned to or threatened to turn to the military for domestic issues.

The July House Armed Services Committee hearing was about military involvement in civilian law enforcement after Trump threatened to deploy the military to quell widespread protests against racial injustice and police violence.

During the protests in June, Milley came under some criticism for accompanying Trump on a photo-op to a church across from the White House. Milley was wearing battle fatigues, and the photo-op came after federal law enforcement forcibly cleared the area of protesters.

Milley later apologized for being part of the photo-op, saying that “we must hold dear the principle of an apolitical military that is so deeply rooted in the very essence of our republic.”

Tags 2020 election Chris Wallace Donald Trump Donald Trump Elissa Slotkin Joe Biden Joe Biden Mark Esper Mikie Sherrill Trevor Noah

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