Top generals tamp down election concerns in private briefing with news anchors
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley reportedly held an off-the-record video call with top Pentagon officials and network anchors over the weekend to dispel fears that the military might play a role in the presidential election.
The Defense Department on Tuesday confirmed the existence of the call.
“We can confirm the off the record meeting took place but we’re not going to confirm the content because … well … it was off the record,” a Joint Staff spokesperson told The Hill.
Milley used Saturday’s call, first reported by Axios, to stress that the military would have no role in any potential transfer of power, according to a network anchor who participated.
An official also reportedly told anchors that images of uniformed National Guard troops were not cause for alarm as the governors had requested them.
Two sources from two separate networks also confirmed to The Hill that the meeting happened.
Milley, along with Defense Secretary Mark Esper, has repeatedly stressed in public that the U.S. military would remain apolitical as questions swirl around military involvement in the presidential election.
In August, Milley told lawmakers he saw no role for U.S. troops to play in resolving any electoral dispute.
The concerns stem from President Trump’s reluctance to confirm that he will accept the results of the election or commit to a peaceful transition of power.
Trump has also cast doubt on the integrity of mail-in ballots despite no evidence of widespread fraud. In a White House press briefing in September, he said “we’re going to have to see what happens” when asked to commit to a peaceful transition.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has also said that he was “absolutely convinced” troops would “escort” Trump from the White House if he lost the election but refused to leave.
All this comes with the backdrop of Trump repeatedly using or threatening to use the military in domestic issues.
Over the summer, the commander in chief said he might deploy active-duty troops to quell widespread protests against racial injustice and police violence. Following that, Esper held a Pentagon news conference announcing his opposition to using active-duty troops against protesters.