The ten surviving former U.S. secretaries of defense co-signed a Washington Post op-ed published Sunday that warns President Trump and his Defense Department appointees the election is over, the time for questioning the results has passed and they better not involve the military in the election fight. Those who signed include James Mattis and Mark Esper who both served as SecDef in the Trump administration.
Politico reports the statement was the idea of a never-Trump former Bush administration official who worked with former Vice President Cheney on the statement.
…Our elections have occurred. Recounts and audits have been conducted. Appropriate challenges have been addressed by the courts. Governors have certified the results. And the electoral college has voted. The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived.
As senior Defense Department leaders have noted, “there’s no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election.” Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory. Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic.
…Acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and his subordinates — political appointees, officers and civil servants — are each bound by oath, law and precedent to facilitate the entry into office of the incoming administration, and to do so wholeheartedly. They must also refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team…
The statement bears the names of: Ashton Carter (Obama), Dick Cheney (Bush 41), William Cohen (Clinton), Mark Esper (Trump), Robert Gates (Bush 43 and Obama), Chuck Hagel (Obama), James Mattis (Trump), Leon Panetta (Obama), William Perry (Clinton) and Donald Rumsfeld (Ford and Bush 43).
…Trump’s rhetoric in the months since he lost the Nov. 3 election to Joe Biden has led to speculation that he might deploy the military in an attempt to hold on to power. Trump has repeatedly and emphatically said he was cheated out of victory and defiantly urged his supporters to continue to push for the results to be overturned, ingredients that have been seen as paving the way for potential unrest and violence.
…The rare joint statement was precipitated by a Dec. 26 column by David Ignatius in The Washington Post that outlined a series of recent developments that have alarmed military officials who fear Trump’s hand-picked Pentagon leaders, including Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, could overstep the law to assist Trump’s efforts to overturn the election.
“I talk periodically to Cheney,” Edelman recalled in an interview Sunday. “This summer, when I was starting to get ready to help organize the national security Republicans who endorsed Biden, along with Sean O’Keefe, who was [Cheney’s] secretary of the Navy … I was talking to him about this on and off and expressing my concerns about Trump, much of which he shared.”
“When the David Ignatius piece came out,” Edelman continued, “that was alarming. It was not inconsistent with conversations I had with Esper after he resigned, in term of concerns about what might be going on with this clown car of people that they’ve got over there around Miller.
“When you are a former senior official, people you know are still there, you hear stuff,” he added. “I’d heard things that were eerily similar to what was in the Ignatius column.”
Edelman wrote the first draft of the statement, and Eliot Cohen, an expert on civil-military relations and dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, where Edelman teaches, made some revisions. Then it went to Cheney, who made some minor changes of his own…
This kind of scheming only happens in the movies, right?
Media figures stoked the fears online:
The end game is often the most dangerous. Former secretaries of defense firing a shot over the bow of a would-be dictator is a sign of the treacherous straits through which we are sailing.
— Dan Rather (@DanRather) January 4, 2021
The fact that these 10 former Secretaries of Defense felt the need to unprecedentedly sign this letter should absolutely be a cause for alarm. https://t.co/XiatHeRAka
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) January 3, 2021
The very worrisome question is why all 10 living former Secretaries of Defense, including Trump officials Esper and Mattis, chose to speak out now. What is the scenario they are worried about?
— Susan Glasser (@sbg1) January 3, 2021
Wake up folks. When 10 former SecDefs, including Esper and Mattis, join up & warn of dangers of military intervention in elections, they smell something, they feel something, they are worried. People need to have courage of their convictions on this one https://t.co/fpDWeiqsTe
— Steve Clemons (@SCClemons) January 3, 2021