General Milley

General Milley Apologizes for Trump Photo Op Role – The New York Times

President Trump’s walk across Lafayette Square, current and former military leaders say, has started a moment of reckoning in the military.




‘It Was a Mistake,’ Milley Says of Participating in Trump Photo Op

Gen. Mark A. Milley, the top military official in the United States, apologized for his role in President Trump’s walk across Lafayette Square after the authorities used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear peaceful protesters.

As senior leaders, everything you do will be closely watched, and I am not immune. 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 it. 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.

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Gen. Mark A. Milley, the top military official in the United States, apologized for his role in President Trump’s walk across Lafayette Square after the authorities used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear peaceful protesters.CreditCredit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

Helene Cooper

WASHINGTON — The country’s top military official apologized on Thursday for taking part in President Trump’s walk across Lafayette Square for a photo op after the authorities used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear the area of peaceful protesters.

“I should not have been there,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a prerecorded video commencement address to National Defense University. “My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”

His first public remarks since Mr. Trump’s photo op, in which federal authorities attacked peaceful protesters so that the president could hold up a Bible in front of St. John’s Church, are certain to anger the White House, where Mr. Trump has spent the days since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis taking increasingly tougher stances against the growing movement for change across the country.

On Wednesday, the president picked another fight with the military, slapping down the Pentagon for considering renaming Army bases named after Confederate officers who fought against the Union in the Civil War.

The back and forth between Mr. Trump and the Pentagon in recent days is evidence of the deepest civil-military divide since the Vietnam War — except this time, military leaders, after halting steps in the beginning, are now positioning themselves firmly with those calling for change.

Mr. Trump’s walk across Lafayette Square, current and former military leaders say, has started a critical moment of reckoning in the military.

“As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from,” General Milley said. He said he had been angry about “the senseless and brutal killing of George Floyd” and repeated his opposition to Mr. Trump’s suggestions that federal troops be deployed nationwide to quell protests.

General Milley’s friends said that for the last 10 days, he had been agonized about appearing — in the combat fatigues he wears every day to work — behind Mr. Trump during the walk across Lafayette Square, an act that critics said gave a stamp of military approval to the hard-line tactics used to clear the protesters.

The general believed he was accompanying Mr. Trump and his entourage to review National Guard troops and other law enforcement personnel outside Lafayette Square, Defense Department officials said.

In the days after the photo op, General Milley told Mr. Trump that he was angered by what had happened. The two had already exchanged sharp words last Monday, when General Milley engaged the president in a heated discussion in the Oval Office over whether to send active-duty troops into the streets, according to people in the room.

General Milley argued that the scattered fires and looting in some places were dwarfed by the peaceful protests and should be handled by the states, which command local law enforcement.

Mr. Trump acquiesced, but he has continued to hold out the threat of sending active-duty troops.

Last week, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper called a news conference to announce that he, too, opposed invoking the 1807 Insurrection Act to deploy active-duty troops across the country to quell protests, a line that a number of American military officials said they would not cross.

The president, aides say, has been furious with both Mr. Esper and General Milley since then. Defense Department officials say they are unsure how long either will last in their respective jobs, but they also note that Mr. Trump can ill afford to go into open warfare with the Pentagon so close to an election.

Since last Monday, General Milley has spoken with lawmakers, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, both Democrats. He has also spoken with many of his predecessors, as well as with Republican congressional leaders, according to people with knowledge of the conversations. In most of the exchanges, General Milley said he deeply regretted the park incident.

A combat veteran who peppers his speech with references to the history of warfare, General Milley has usually gotten along with Mr. Trump, mixing banter and bluntness when he speaks to his boss, officials say. The general went against the wishes of his own father — who fought at Iwo Jima as a Marine — when he joined the Army.

In the tumultuous hours and days since the walk across Lafayette Park, General Milley has taken pains to mitigate the damage. Two days after the episode, General Milley released a letter that forcefully reminded the troops that their military was supposed to protect the right to freedom of speech. He added a handwritten codicil to his letter, some of it straying outside the margins: “We all committed our lives to the idea that is America — we will stay true to that oath and the American people.”

During his speech on Thursday at National Defense University, General Milley, after expressing his disgust over the video of the killing of Mr. Floyd, spoke at length about the issue of race, both in the military and in civilian society.

“The protests that have ensued not only speak to his killing, but also to the centuries of injustice toward African-Americans,” he said. “What we are seeing is the long shadow of our original sin in Jamestown 401 years ago, liberated by the Civil War, but not equal in the eyes of the law until 100 years later in 1965.”

General Milley called on the military to address issues of systemic racism in the armed forces, where 43 percent of the enlisted troops are people of color but only a tiny handful are in the ranks of senior leadership.

“The Navy and Marine Corps have no African-Americans serving above the two-star level, and the Army has just one African-American four-star,” he said, referring to officers who are generals and admirals. “We all need to do better.”

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General statue

General Lee statue set to come down in Virginia – ABC News

ABC News’ Terry Moran reports from Richmond, Va,. where Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Virginia) has ordered the removal of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee statue.

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Attorney General

Attorney General Barr ordered authorities to clear protesters near White House, DOJ official says – CNN

Washington (CNN)Attorney General William Barr on Monday evening ordered authorities to clear a crowd of protesters that had gathered near the White House, according to a Justice Department official, minutes ahead of President Donald Trump‘s televised address from the Rose Garden.

Barr and other top officials from agencies responsible for securing the White House had previously planned to secure a wider perimeter around Lafayette Square, a federally owned green space just north of the building, in response to fires and destruction caused by protestors on Sunday night.
That plan, developed earlier Monday, would have cleared the area later used for the President’s walk to the nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo-op by 4 p.m. ET, the official said.
But it never happened. When Barr arrived at Lafayette Square just after 6 p.m. in a scene that was captured on news cameras and elicited heckles from the large, peaceful crowd, the attorney general saw that the area had not been emptied, and told police to clear the area, the official said.
If federal law enforcement was met with resistance by the protesters, crowd control measures should be implemented, Barr had said, according to the official.
The Washington Post first reported Barr’s direct involvement.
Barr had been told that police believed protestors were gathering rocks to throw at law enforcement, and while he was in the park, water bottles were thrown in his direction, the official said. CNN did not witness any water bottles being thrown at the attorney general. Camera footage shows him standing and watching the crowd for several minutes, flanked by a security detail and two senior department officials.
Just before 6:24 p.m., police broadcast their first warning for the crowd to distance. A CNN correspondent reporting from the rooftop of a nearby hotel heard three warnings broadcast over the next 10 minutes as authorities moved closer to the crowd.
At 6:35 p.m., authorities began charging the crowd in lockstep with their shields raised, some using their batons to strike the protestors as gas canisters were deployed.
Trump walked over to the church shortly after 7 p.m.

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Attorney General

Attorney General Barr defends decision to drop Michael Flynn case – CBS News

Published on 08-May-2020

Attorney General William Barr is weighing in on the Justice Department’s stunning decision to drop the case against Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, who pleaded guilty twice to lying to the FBI in 2017. Now Barr is defending the move in an interview with CBS senior investigative correspondent Catherine Herridge. She joins CBSN to explain the latest developments.

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Fauci General

Fauci, Top U.S. General Throw Cold Water On Trump’s Coronavirus Claim – Forbes


Two high ranking government officials — Dr. Anthony Fauci and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley — pumped the brakes on the controversial theory COVID-19 originated in a lab in Wuhan, China, even as President Trump and other administration officials rally around the claim without any public evidence. 


Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci speaks during … [+] the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on April 22, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images


The unsubstantiated claim that the virus spread from a lab in Wuhan, China, has emerged as a powerful political claim as the Trump administration turns to deflecting attention away from claims the White House faltered in its handling of the outbreak and casting blame onto China.

During a White House event on Thursday, President Trump said, without providing specifics, he had a “high degree of confidence” the virus came from a lab in Wuhan.

In an interview with National Geographic published Monday, Fauci said there was no scientific evidence to support the lab theory and that all signs indicate that the virus “evolved in nature and then jumped species.”

During an on-camera press briefing Tuesday at the Pentagon, Milley said, “we don’t know” whether it began in a Chinese lab or a wet market and added “the weight of evidence is that it was natural and not manmade.”

Fauci and Milley’s comments come as President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have claimed there is evidence to support the theory.

Pompeo said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that there is a “significant amount of evidence [the virus] came from that laboratory in Wuhan.”

Crucial quote

Milley added there was still not “conclusive evidence” as to whether or not the virus was accidentally or deliberately released in Wuhan, China, but that “the weight of evidence is that it was probably not intentional.”

Chief critic

A Chinese newspaper controlled by the government came out forcefully against Pompeo’s claims. In an editorial, the newspaper wrote Monday that Pompeo had “stunned the world with groundless accusations.” 

“Since Pompeo said his claims are supported by ‘enormous evidence,’ then he should present this so-called evidence to the world, and especially to the American public who he continually tries to fool,” the editorial said. 

Key background

The idea of a lab-leaked virus bubbled up in February among conservative media—including Fox News—and right-wing lawmakers, including Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who has been one of the most vocal proponents of the theory. But the claim the virus originated in a lab has gained new life in recent weeks with reports that officials inside the government were investigating the claim. Last week, the New York Times reported that senior Trump administration officials, led by Pompeo, have pushed U.S. spy agencies to dig up evidence supporting the lab theory even though most intelligence agencies remain skeptical of the lab claim. While officials and many scientists say the theory is technically possible, no public evidence has emerged to support the claim. 

Further reading

Dr. Fauci again dismisses Wuhan lab as source of coronavirus (CBS News) 

Report: Trump Officials Pressured Spy Agencies To Link Covid Outbreak To Wuhan Lab (Forbes)

Pompeo: ‘Enormous Evidence’ Linking Wuhan Lab To Covid Outbreak (Forbes)

Trump Claims To Have Seen Evidence Linking Coronavirus To Wuhan Lab After Intelligence Chief Says Virus Not Manmade (Forbes)

The Controversial Rumor COVID-19 Originated In A Wuhan Lab Creeps Into The GOP Mainstream (Forbes)

Trump Officials Are Said to Press Spies to Link Virus and Wuhan Labs (New York Times NYT)

Republicans See Attacking China As A Winning Strategy (Forbes)

A Virologist Explains Why It Is Unlikely COVID-19 Escaped From A Lab (Forbes)

No, COVID-19 Coronavirus Was Not Bioengineered. Here’s The Research That Debunks That Idea (Forbes)

Chinese lab conducted extensive research on deadly bat viruses, but there is no evidence of accidental release (Washington Post)

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