Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley reportedly discussed resigning over role in Trump's church photo op, says report

‘We who wear the cloth of our nation come from the people of our nation. And we must hold dear the principle of an apolitical military’

Graig Graziosi
Friday 12 June 2020 17:49 BST
General Mark Milley apologises for role in Trump photo opportunity

US Army General Mark Milley reportedly contemplated resigning over his involvement in President Donald Trump's infamous protest photo-op.

Mr Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, apologised for his involvement in an incident in which demonstrators at the George Floyd protests in Washington DC were cleared out from St John's Church through the use of pepper balls.

"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. I should not have been there. My presence in that moment, and in that environment, created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics."

"We who wear the cloth of our nation come from the people of our nation. And we must hold dear the principle of an apolitical military that is so deeply rooted in the very essence of our Republic. And this is not easy. It takes time and work and effort. But it may be the most important thing each and every one of us does every single day," he said in a prerecorded statement Thursday.

Following his appearance alongside the president on the day of the photo-op, Mr Milley discussed with confidantes the possibility of resigning his position.

According to NBC News, Mr Milley - along with Vice President Mike Pence, Defence Secretary Mark Esper and Attorney General William Barr were with Mr Trump on the day of the protests. According to an anonymous senior administration official, Mr Trump was considering invoking the Insurrection Act to justify sending active-duty troops in to quell protests, but the three men pushed back against the president's idea.

The senior official said Mr Milley became so passionate in his explanation of why using the Insurrection Act was inappropriate that he was shaking his fists and raising his voice.

Mr Milley was apparently wearing his fatigues the day of the photo-op because he was preparing to report to the FBI's field office, which was being used as a command hub for the city's response to the protests. He was then called to the president's Rose Garden event.

"It didn't make sense to go all the way back to the Pentagon to change when he was already in the city," a senior defence official told NBC News.

The officials said following the use of chemical irritants and flash bangs against protesters, Mr Milley attempted to distance himself from the photos so he wouldn't be included. However, he was later caught on video visiting National Guard members while he was wearing his fatigues. That video was widely shared as evidence that the military was actively involved in busting the protests.

After reviewing the public's response on social media to his presence and reading commentary about the military's presence at the protests, Mr Milley determined he needed to address the situation, and reportedly considered resigning.

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