All eight of the nation’s top military officers sent an extraordinary message to the entire force on Tuesday warning troops to follow the law, as Washington reels from last week’s assault on the U.S. Capitol and prepares for next week’s inauguration.
"As Service Members, we must embody the values and ideals of the Nation," the four-star officers who make up the Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote in a memo to the force. "Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values and oath; it is against the law."
The memo marked a rare combined statement from the nation’s top brass. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley in particular has been careful in recent months to keep the military out of politics, after facing pushback for walking with President Donald Trump across Lafayette Square this summer moments after law enforcement forcefully cleared the area of peaceful protesters.
Amid concerns that Trump would try to use the military to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s win in recent weeks, Milley has reiterated that the troops would have no role in determining the outcome of the election.
In the memo, the Joint Chiefs affirmed Biden’s win, noting that on Jan. 20 he will be inaugurated and become the commander in chief "in accordance with the Constitution."
The officers also condemned the violence in the Capitol last week, calling it a "direct assault" not just on the Congress, but on America’s Constitutional process.
"We witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law," they wrote. "The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection."
Lawmakers have called on the military to investigate and prosecute any active military members who took part in the assault.
The Pentagon has authorized the deployment of up to 15,000 National Guardsmen to aid law enforcement ahead of the inauguration as intelligence agencies report fresh threats of further attacks.
Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) said on Sunday that he urged Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy to screen service members who are expected to be involved in inauguration security to ensure they are "not sympathetic to domestic terrorists."
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