America’s top general has apologized for appearing in a photo-op with President Donald Trump following the forceful dispersal of peaceful protesters outside the White House last week, calling the move a “mistake” and saying his presence “created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”
What We Know:
- Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a pre-recorded speech released on Thursday that he regrets accompanying Trump on a walk from the White House to St. John’s Church last week where he was photographed wearing his combat uniform and moving with the President’s entourage through Lafayette Square.
- The images provoked a swift wave of criticism from lawmakers and several senior former military officials who said they risked dragging the traditionally apolitical military into a contentious domestic political situation.
- The comments mark an extraordinary moment of America’s top general apologizing for an appearance with his commander in chief, and doing so while speaking to a group of future military officers and leaders.
- “As senior leaders, everything you do will be closely watched. And I am not immune. As many of you saw, the result of the photograph of me at Lafayette Square last week. That sparked a national debate about the role of the military in civil society,” Milley said in his pre-recorded speech to a group of graduates from the National Defense University.
- Both Milley and Defense Secretary Mark Esper have told colleagues they are distressed with the criticism about the walk to St. John’s because it became a photo-op with political overtones. When asked if they regret being on the walk, one administration official close to both men recently told CNN, “Of course they do.”
- Lindsey Graham, a close ally of the President, issued a statement of support for Milley in the wake of the general’s video statement Thursday.
“I have nothing but deep admiration for and total confidence in General Milley as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” the South Carolina Republican wrote. “I support his statement in both substance and spirit regarding the recent presidential visit to St. John’s.”