Top Military Brass Continue to Rebuke Trump
June 8, 2020
Following Trump’s outrageous abuse of the military to threaten peaceful protesters, former military leaders have continued their unprecedented public criticism of Trump, adding to comments by multiple military leaders last week.
Colin Powell, the first African American secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Trump has “drifted away” from the Constitution, and he endorsed Joe Biden for president.
POWELL: “We have a Constitution. And we have to follow that Constitution. And the President has drifted away from it.”
POWELL: “I certainly cannot in any way support President Trump this year. … I will be voting for [Joe Biden].”
Trump’s former chief of staff, retired four-star General John Kelly, said he would have “argued against” Trump forcefully clearing out peaceful protesters for a photo-op.
KELLY: “The idea that you would unleash American active duty folks unless it’s an extremist situation … these are civilian responsibilities.”
KELLY: “We should be very, very careful before we contemplate sending in active duty.”
Former Defense Secretary William Perry criticized Trump for threatening “to deploy American soldiers against American citizens” and for putting himself before the Constitution.
PERRY: “It is both wrong and dangerous to threaten to deploy American soldiers against American citizens unless there is a complete breakdown of law and order in a state and the governor requests that assistance.”
PERRY: “President Trump demands that members of his administration swear their loyalty to him, and those who demur do not stay long. But in the United States, those who serve in the government and the military swear an oath to support the Constitution, not any individual. That is what makes our nation great.”
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey condemned Trump’s threats as “very dangerous” and “troubling.”
DEMPSEY: “The idea that the president would take charge of the situation using the military was troubling to me.’
DEMPSEY: “The idea that the military would be called in to dominate and to suppress what, for the most part, were peaceful protests — admittedly, where some had opportunistically turned them violent — and that the military would somehow come in and calm that situation was very dangerous to me.”
Adding to comments last week, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen criticized Trump for using the military to “fight our own people” and warned that Trump’s threats would cause the military to lose “the trust of the American people.”
MULLEN: “We have a military to fight our enemies, not our own people. And our military should never be called to fight our own people as enemies of the state.”
MULLEN: “In very short order, should we get into conflict in our own streets, there’s a very significant chance we could lose that trust that has taken us 50-plus years to restore.”
Former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Sandy Winnefeld said Trump’s actions had put civil-military relations at “the most dangerous” point in his lifetime and criticized the use of federal forces.
WINNEFELD: “We are at the most dangerous time for civil-military relations I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
WINNEFELD: “It is especially important to reserve the use of federal forces for only the most dire circumstances that actually threaten the survival of the nation. Our senior-most military leaders need to ensure their political chain of command understands these things.”
Trump’s former acting director of national intelligence, retired three-star admiral Joseph Maguire, said he was in agreement with criticism of Trump from former defense secretary Jim Mattis, Mullen, and Dempsey.
MAGUIRE: “Jim Mattis, Mike Mullen and Marty Dempsey are all good friends, and I respect them tremendously. I am in alignment with their views.”
Retired Navy four-star admiral William McRaven, who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, said Trump “doesn’t have the qualities necessary to be a good commander in chief” and that there was “nothing morally right” to use law enforcement to clear peaceful protesters.
McRAVEN: “President Trump has shown he doesn’t have the qualities necessary to be a good commander in chief.”
McRAVEN: “You’re not going to use, whether it’s the military, or the National Guard, or law enforcement, to clear peaceful American citizens for the president of the United States to do a photo op. There is nothing morally right about that.”
Former commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan John Allen said Trump “failed” to show leadership and that Americans “shouldn’t tolerate” his authoritarian actions.
ALLEN: “The president has failed to show sympathy, empathy, compassion, or understanding—some of the traits the nation now needs from its highest office. … He failed to project any of the higher emotions or leadership desperately needed in every quarter of this nation during this dire moment.”
ALLEN: “That is what happens in authoritarian regimes. That is what happens in illiberal regimes. It doesn’t happen in the United States, and we shouldn’t tolerate it.”