Pollak: General Mark Milley Repeats James Comey’s Mistake

Mark Milley (Anna Moneymaker-Pool / Getty)
Anna Moneymaker-Pool / Getty

Gen. Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, apologized Thursday in a video address to National Defense University for accompanying President Donald Trump on his walk through Lafayette Park to St. John’s Episcopal Church on June 1, the day the administration turned the tide on nationwide unrest over George Floyd.

Milley said (22:56 in the video below):

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. As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from, and I sincerely hope we all can learn from.

Milley’s apology is itself a political statement. It supports the left’s claim that President Trump’s visit to the church — which had been burned by the so-called “peaceful protesters” the night before — was a mere political “photo-op.”

President Dwight D. Eisenhower also used federal troops to protect black children when the schools of the South were desegregated, against Democrats’ opposition. That, too, was “domestic politics” — and it was also about justice.

But whether one agrees about the “photo-op” or not — and many Americans feel it was an essential statement about law and order — Milley confirmed, either way, that the military appears to have been “involved in domestic politics.”

Either the military interfered in politics when it was called upon to stop “peaceful protests” — which were violent and unlawful in many places — or it interfered Thursday morning when Milley apologized and confirmed Trump’s critics.

Milley has repeated James Comey’s mistake from 2016.

Comey, who was then the director of the FBI, usurped the role of the prosecutor when he declared on July 5, 2016, that while former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been “extremely careless” in her mishandling of classified information on an illicit private email server, she would not be prosecuted because she had not shown the requisite “intent” — though the existing law had no “intent” requirement.

Both sides cried foul — and for good reason.

For Democrats, Comey’s statement meant that Clinton had been vilified by a senior law enforcement official, but would not have a chance to counter the charges with evidence of her own.

And for Republicans, Comey’s statement confirmed that there was a double standard — one for the Clintons and one for everybody else.

Comey interfered in the election — perhaps doing so with good intentions, but interfering nonetheless. He would make the same mistake again in late October 2016, when he re-opened the investigation into Clinton’s missing emails.

His interventions ensured that the losing side would regard the election as illegitimate, sowing divisions that have only deepened.

Somehow, Milley failed to learn from Comey’s example.

He could have stressed the importance of political independence without expressing a conclusion one way or the other about Lafayette Park and St. John’s Church.

The fact that Milley expressed regret is deeply concerning.

For months, retired senior military leaders have made public comments suggesting that Trump ought to be removed from office, “the sooner, the better.” Last week, former Secretary of Defense James Mattis joined the others.

With violent protesters surrounding the White House, these statements were ill-timed, at best. But the question remained how deeply the effort to delegitimize Trump pervaded the military leadership.

Today’s apology suggests a troubling answer..

As a result of his needless apology, no matter what happens in November, the losing side will blame the military.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, is available for pre-order. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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