The U.S. military must not become entangled in any election disputes in the coming days, all 10 living former Defense secretaries wrote in an op-ed published on Sunday.
“American elections and the peaceful transfers of power that result are hallmarks of our democracy,” they wrote in The Washington Post, adding that everyone in the American defense establishment must “refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team.”
The group of 10 includes one who later became vice president (Dick Cheney) and two who served as Pentagon chiefs under President Donald Trump (Jim Mattis and Mark Esper).
Trump’s rhetoric in the months since he lost the Nov. 3 election to Joe Biden has led to speculation that he might deploy the military in an attempt to hold on to power. Trump has repeatedly and emphatically said he was cheated out of victory and defiantly urged his supporters to continue to push for the results to be overturned, ingredients that have been seen as paving the way for potential unrest and violence.
The group of 10 made it clear they had no sympathy for Trump’s attempts to overturn the election, by whatever means. “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,” they wrote.
The signatories served under Presidents Gerald R. Ford (Donald Rumsfeld), George H.W. Bush (Cheney), Bill Clinton (William Cohen, William Perry), George W. Bush (Rumsfeld again, Robert Gates), Barack Obama (Gates again, Leon Panetta, Chuck Hagel and Ashton Carter) and Trump.
The rare joint statement was precipitated by a Dec. 26 column by David Ignatius in The Washington Post that outlined a series of recent developments that have alarmed military officials who fear Trump’s hand-picked Pentagon leaders, including Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, could overstep the law to assist Trump’s efforts to overturn the election.
Eric Edelman, a former ambassador to Turkey and undersecretary of Defense for George W. Bush who endorsed Biden for president, said he organized the letter after talking to Cheney.
The idea for this statement actually originated from Vice President Cheney.— William J. Perry (@SecDef19) January 4, 2021
Each of us swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution; that oath does not change according to party designation.https://t.co/NSsdLkZX9g
Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the House GOP conference chair, sent a 21-page memo to fellow House Republicans on Sunday making the case that there’s “no appropriate basis” for Congress to object to slates of Electoral College votes on January 6.
Here’s an excerpt of Cheney’s memo:[T]here is substantial reason for concern about the precedent Congressional objections will set here. By objecting to electoral slates, members are unavoidably asserting that Congress has the authority to overturn elections and overrule state and federal courts. Such objections set an exceptionally dangerous precedent, threatening to steal states’ explicit constitutional responsibility for choosing the President and bestowing it instead on Congress. This is directly at odds with the Constitution’s clear text and our core beliefs as Republicans. Democrats have long attempted, unconstitutionally, to federalize every element of our nation—including elections. Republicans should not embrace Democrats’ unconstitutional position on these issues.
The recent proposal for a new “Commission” is even more problematic. It is not reasonable to anticipate that any commission so formed could wrap up its work in 10 days; indeed, the subsequent debate at both the state and federal level would likely require months. Did those proposing a new commission realize that they were in essence proposing to delay the inaugural? Did they mean to set up a new future precedent where the inaugural is delayed and we have an “Acting President?” For how long? Who decides when that process is over? Will that require another Act of Congress? Could the Acting President veto any such future Congressional action? If Congress has authority to create such a commission now, are state elections, recounts and state law legal challenges just “make-work” until Congress gets around to investigating and deciding who should be President? Members who support the new commission proposal may need to answer each of these questions. And in particular, Members should be prepared to answer how such a commission would be justified by the actual text of our founding documents.