Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley on Thursday apologized for accompanying President Donald Trump on his walk to St. John’s Episcopal Church earlier June.
“My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics,” Milley told National Defense University graduates in a pre-recorded speech. “As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from, and I sincerely hope we all can learn from it.”
Milley, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and Attorney General William Barr accompanied President Trump to Lafayette Square after protesters were cleared from the park. Democrats and the corporate media accused law enforcement of deploying tear gas against the protesters, a claim shot down by the U.S. Park Police.
“To curtail the violence that was underway, the USPP, following established policy, issued three warnings over a loudspeaker to alert demonstrators on H Street to evacuate the area. Horse mounted patrol, Civil Disturbance Units and additional personnel were used to clear the area,” the U.S. Park Police said in a statement. “As many of the protestors became more combative, continued to throw projectiles, and attempted to grab officers’ weapons, officers then employed the use of smoke canisters and pepper balls. No tear gas was used by USPP officers or other assisting law enforcement partners to close the area at Lafayette Park. Subsequently, the fence was installed.”
As outrage from Trump critics grew, Esper said in a press conference that he was not aware he would be accompanying President Trump to St. John’s Church.
“I was not aware a photo op was happening,” Esper stated. “I do everything I can to stay apolitical.”
In the same briefing, Esper also said he opposed President Trump’s call for deploying active-duty forces in a law enforcement role to quell riots sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis, 48 hours after the president ordered troops to bring calm to Washington, D.C.
“The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act,” the secretary said.
According to Bloomberg, Esper’s comments drew the ire of the White House, though there are no immediate plans to remove him from his post: “President Trump and other top aides were upset that Defense Secretary Mark Esper publicly opposed the deployment of active-duty forces to confront protesters in U.S. cities, as Trump has suggested, and viewed the Pentagon chief’s remarks as out of line.”