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Former Trump Pentagon officials speak out after Capitol siege

Former Trump Pentagon officials speak out after Capitol siege

Several of President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee MORE’s former top Pentagon officials spoke out Wednesday after pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol while lawmakers were meeting to certify Joe BidenJoe BidenThe West needs a more collaborative approach to Taiwan Abbott's medical advisers were not all consulted before he lifted Texas mask mandate House approves George Floyd Justice in Policing Act MORE’s presidential victory, including former Defense Secretary 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 who directly blamed Trump.

"Today's violent assault on our Capitol, an effort to subjugate American democracy by mob rule, was fomented by Mr. Trump," Mattis said in a statement to several news outlets.

"His use of the presidency to destroy trust in our election and to poison our respect for fellow citizens has been enabled by pseudo political leaders whose names will live in infamy as profiles in cowardice,” Mattis added.

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Also speaking out Wednesday was retired Gen. Joseph Dunford, who as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until 2019 was Trump’s top military adviser, who faulted “leaders who have continued to undermine a peaceful transition.”

“This is an outrageous assault on our democracy and a sad day for our nation,” Dunford said in a statement to CNN’s Barbara Starr on Wednesday evening.

“As many have said we’re better than this,” Dunford continued. “I believe our leaders who have continued to undermine a peaceful transition in accordance with our Constitution have set the conditions for today’s violence.”

Dunford, who began his tenure as the top general in the U.S. military in 2015 during the Obama administration, did not mention Trump by name. But Dunford vowed never to comment on the current administration before his retirement and has stayed quiet since, making any public statement from him notable.

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"I will not now, nor will I when I take off the uniform, make judgments about the president of the United States or the commander in chief," Dunford told reporters in 2019. "I just won't do it."

Mattis has remained largely quiet since he quit the administration in 2018 over Syria policy differences, but spoke out over the summer after federal law enforcement used force to clear peaceful protesters from in front of the White House so Trump could walk to a church for a photo op.

On Wednesday, Mattis expressed optimism the country would move on from Trump.

"Our Constitution and our Republic will overcome this stain and We the People will come together again in our never-ending effort to form a more perfect Union, while Mr. Trump will deservedly be left a man without a country," Mattis said.

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, who Trump fired as Defense secretary shortly after November’s election, also spoke out Wednesday. He did not mention Trump by name but blamed “partisan misinformation and patently false claims about the election” for inspiring the mob.

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“This afternoon’s assault on the US Capitol was appalling and un-American,” Esper tweeted.

“As this transition plays out over the next two weeks, I am confident the U.S. military will stay out of politics, and remain true to its sworn oath to support and defend the Constitution, and the American people, as the most trusted and respected institution in the country,” he added in another tweet.

Mattis and Esper also signed onto an op-ed over the weekend, along with the rest of the living former Defense secretaries, urging the military to stay out of the election fray.

The trio of officials spoke out after a violent mob of Trump supporters breached the U.S. Capitol earlier Wednesday, forcing lawmakers to abruptly halt the process of counting Electoral College votes and shelter in undisclosed locations.

The entire D.C. National Guard was activated Wednesday to help respond to the chaos, and D.C. Mayor Muriel BowserMuriel BowserLobbying world Abigail Breslin mourns loss of father from COVID-19 NAACP president accuses Trump of having operated under 'white supremacist doctrine' MORE (D) was forced to implement a 6 p.m. citywide curfew.

Shortly before the curfew started, the House sergeant-at-arms informed lawmakers that the Capitol had been cleared, and lawmakers were expected to reconvene Wednesday evening to finish counting electoral votes.

The siege came after weeks of Trump refusing to accept the results of November’s election, spreading conspiracy theories and zeroing his supporters in on Wednesday’s joint session of Congress by falsely claiming Vice President Pence or Republican lawmakers could somehow overturn the results of the election. At a rally Wednesday morning, Trump explicitly urged supporters to march on Congress afterward.

After his supporters breached the Capitol, Trump showed little interest in urging them to stop, releasing a video that asked them to go home in “peace” but also continued to stoke his baseless claims about winning the election that led to Wednesday’s riots.

Updated at 9 p.m.