The president’s desperate effort to overturn the election raises fears that he will try to suborn the armed forces
WASHINGTON (January 4, 2021) —Dick Cheney — vice-president to George W. Bush, architect of the Iraq war and a pantomime villain for liberals — is an unlikely candidate to lead a bipartisan charge against President Donald Trump. Yet it was Mr. Cheney who corralled all ten living former defense secretaries in an extraordinary open letter published in the Washington Post on January 3rd. [Letter reposted in full, below — EAW]
“Efforts to involve the US armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory,” they warned. “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.”
The letter is the crest of a wave of concern among Democrats and Republicans over Mr. Trump’s opposition to a peaceful transition of power to President-elect Joe Biden, who is due to be sworn into office on January 20th. . . .
‘Leave Military Out of It,’ Former Defense Secretaries Tell Trump
Unprecedented letter calls on voted-out president to accept Joe Biden’s election victory amid growing fears over his behavior
WASHINGTON (January 3, 2021) — All 10 former US defense secretaries still living, including two who worked for Donald Trump, have called for the president and his supporters to accept he lost the election and warned against attempts to involve the military in his increasingly desperate efforts to overturn the result.
In an unprecedented joint letter published in the Washington Post, the defense secretaries addressed the worst fears of what could happen in 17 days of Trump’s administration remaining before Joe Biden’s inauguration: an attempt by Trump to foment a crises with the aim of triggering a military intervention in his last-ditch struggle to hold on power.
“Efforts to involve the US armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory,” the letter said.
“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.”
Among the signatories were James Mattis and Mark Esper, who both served as defense secretaries in the Trump administration. Esper openly contradicted Trump in June by insisting there were no grounds for invoking the Insurrection Act, which allows for the deployment of US troops on American streets in extreme circumstances.
Dick Cheney, defense secretary under George HW Bush, and vice-president to his son, George W Bush, and Donald Rumsfeld, defense secretary in the younger Bush’s administration, also signed. The other signatories were William Perry and William Cohen, defence secretaries in the Bill Clinton administration; Leon Panetta, Chuck Hagel and Ashton Carter, who served under Barack Obama; and Robert Gates, who served under both the younger Bush and Obama.
“Transitions, which all of us have experienced, are a crucial part of the successful transfer of power. They often occur at times of international uncertainty about US national security policy and posture,” the former defense secretaries wrote. “They can be a moment when the nation is vulnerable to actions by adversaries seeking to take advantage of the situation.”
They called on the current defense secretary, Christopher Miller, and his officials to resume cooperation with the Biden transition team, who had complained their briefings had been cut off and the Pentagon had ceased answering their inquiries.
The Washington Post quoted Eric Edelman, a former US ambassador and defense official, as saying the genesis of the remarkable letter was a conversation he had with Cheney about how the military might be used in coming days.
There are concerns over unrest on Wednesday when a dozen Republican senators say they will challenge the normally routine congressional ratification of the electoral college result.
Trump has urged his supporters to rally in Washington, tweeting: “Be there, will be wild!” The far right Proud Boys are expected to be among the pro-Trump crowd in the capital.
Cohen told the Post he was concerned by the mention of the possibility of martial law by the former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, especially after Trump’s use of the military and other federal forces to remove protesters outside the White House in June.
“It’s a very dangerous course of action that needs to be called out before it happens,” Cohen said.
“[It is] so important to see the country’s secretaries of defense sending this message,” wrote Risa Brooks, a Marquette University associate professor studying civil-military relations and political violence. “The civilians who run the military need to be front-and-center in conveying this message to the public and not leave it to the military alone.”
Involving the Military in Election Disputes Would Cross into Dangerous Territory
Ashton Carter, Dick Cheney, William Cohen, Mark Esper, Robert Gates, Chuck Hagel, James Mattis, Leon Panetta, William Perry and Donald Rumsfeld / Former US Secretaries of Defense / Washington Post Op-Ed
(January 3, 2021) — As former secretaries of defense, we hold a common view of the solemn obligations of the US armed forces and the Defense Department. Each of us swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We did not swear it to an individual or a party.
American elections and the peaceful transfers of power that result are hallmarks of our democracy. With one singular and tragic exception that cost the lives of more Americans than all of our other wars combined, the United States has had an unbroken record of such transitions since 1789, including in times of partisan strife, war, epidemics and economic depression. This year should be no exception.
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 US military in determining the outcome of a US election.” Efforts to involve the US 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.
Transitions, which all of us have experienced, are a crucial part of the successful transfer of power. They often occur at times of international uncertainty about US national security policy and posture. They can be a moment when the nation is vulnerable to actions by adversaries seeking to take advantage of the situation.
Given these factors, particularly at a time when US forces are engaged in active operations around the world, it is all the more imperative that the transition at the Defense Department be carried out fully, cooperatively and transparently.
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.
We call upon them, in the strongest terms, to do as so many generations of Americans have done before them. This final action is in keeping with the highest traditions and professionalism of the US armed forces, and the history of democratic transition in our great country.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.