CNN Reports on Rift Between Trump and Top Military Advisers After General Apologizes For Church Photo-Op
General Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, apologized in a video statement Thursday for his participation in President Donald Trump‘s photo op at St. John’s Episcopal Church at the height of the George Floyd protests, a comment so noteworthy that CNN anchor asked if it was evidence of a “significant rift” between the president and his top military advisers.
“I should not have been there,” said Milley, calling his participation a “mistake that I have learned from and I sincerely hope we can all learn from it.”
“My presence in that moment, and in that environment, created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics,” he continued. “We must hold dear the principle of an apolitical military that is so deeply rooted in the very essence of our republic.”
This public statement from Milley was “extremely significant,” Barbara Starr told CNN’s Jim Sciutto.
“He’s the top military adviser,” she said. “He is a symbol to the world of the non-partisan profile of the United States military.”
“What we have this morning,” Starr continued, “is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs saying I shouldn’t have been there. I should not have been there. It raises questions about civil military relationships that the military does not want to be part of. The military, very sensitive to the president threatening to invoke putting active duty military on the streets.”
Sciutto noted that Milley’s apology meant that there were “three now very public disagreements” between Trump and his top military advisers. “That’s a significant rift, is it not?” he asked.
Starr noted that the current situation was that Milley and Defense Secretary Mark Esper were “appear[ing] very much at this point to be determined to speak their mind, to be respectful of the role of the Commander-in-Chief, but to speak their mind,” along with Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, who has stated his willingness to consider renaming military bases named after Confederate generals — despite Trump’s public rejection of the idea.
“I think underlying all of this,” said Starr, “you can come up with a lot of examples where the Defense Department, the Joint Chiefs are moving in advance of the president on the question of racial equality and racial inclusion.”
Watch the video above, via CNN.
Correction: This story inaccurately attributed comments to Barbara Starr that were said by Jim Sciutto. It has been updated.
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