ALL NEWS

Top general apologizes for appearing with Trump during church walk

Jun 11, 2020, 8:02 AM | Updated: 8:47 am

FILE - In this June 1, 2020 file photo, President Donald Trump departs the White House to visit out...

FILE - In this June 1, 2020 file photo, President Donald Trump departs the White House to visit outside St. John's Church, in Washington. Part of the church was set on fire during protests on Sunday night. Walking behind Trump from left are, Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Milley says his presence “created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.” He called it “a mistake” that he has learned from. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Army Gen. Mark Milley, the nation’s top military officer, said Thursday he was wrong to have accompanied President Donald Trump on a walk to a church through Lafayette Square, where he was photographed in his combat uniform with the presidential entourage.

“My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics,” Milley said. “As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from, and I sincerely hope we all can learn from it.”

 

The statement by the Joint Chiefs chairman risked the wrath of a president sensitive to anything hinting of criticism of events he has staged. Trump’s June 1 walk through the park to pose with a Bible at a church came after authorities used pepper spray and flash bangs to clear the park and streets of largely peaceful protesters.

Milley said his presence and the photographs compromised his commitment to a military divorced from politics.

“I should not have been there,” Milley said in remarks to a National Defense University commencement ceremony.

Milley’s public expression of regret comes as Pentagon leaders’ relations with the White House are still tense after a disagreement last week over Trump’s threat to use federal troops to quell civil unrest triggered by the death of George Floyd.

After protesters were cleared from the Lafayette Square area, Trump led an entourage that included Milley and Defense Secretary Mark Esper to St. John’s Episcopal Church, where he held up a Bible for photographers and then returned to the White House.

“My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics,” Milley said. “As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from, and I sincerely hope we all can learn from it.”

Esper had not said publicly that he erred by being with Trump at that moment. He told a news conference last week that when they left the White House he thought they were going to inspect damage in the Square and at the church and to mingle with National Guard troops in the area.

Milley’s comments at the National Defense University were his first public statements about the Lafayette Square event on June 1, which the White House has hailed as a “leadership moment” for Trump akin to Winston Churchill inspecting damage from German bombs in London during World War II.

The public uproar following Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police has created multiple layers of extraordinary tension between Trump and senior Pentagon officials. When Esper told reporters on June 3 that he had opposed Trump bringing active-duty troops on the streets of the nation’s capital to confront protesters and potential looters, Trump castigated him in a face-to-face meeting.

Just this week, Esper and Milley let it be known through their spokesmen that they were open to a “bipartisan discussion” of whether the 10 Army bases named for Confederate Army officers should be renamed as a gesture aiming to disassociating the military from the racist legacy of the Civil War. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that he would never allow the names to be changed, catching some in the Pentagon by surprise.

The Marine Corps last week moved ahead with a ban on public displays of the Confederate Army battle flag on its bases, and the Navy this week said plans a similar ban applied to its bases, ships and planes. Trump has not commented publicly on those moves, which do not require White House or congressional approval.

Milley used his commencement address, which was pre-recorded and presented as a video message in line with social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic, to raise the matter of his presence with Trump in Lafayette Square. He introduced the subject to his audience of military officers and civilian officials in the context of advice from an Army officer and combat veteran who has spent 40 years in uniform.

He said all senior military leaders must be aware that their words and actions will be closely watched.

“And I am not immune,” he said, noting the photograph of him at Lafayette Square. “That sparked a national debate about the role of the military in civil society.” He expressed regret at having been there and said the lesson to be taken from that moment is that all in uniform are not just soldiers but also citizens.

“We must hold dear the principle of an apolitical military that is so deeply rooted in the very essence of our republic,” he said. “It takes time and work and effort, but it may be the most important thing each and every of us does every single day.”

Milley also expressed his outrage at the Floyd killing and urged military officers to recognize as a reflection of centuries of injustice toward African Americans.

“What we are seeing is the long shadow of our original sin in Jamestown 401 years ago,” he said, referring to the year in which the first enslaved Africans arrived on the shores of colonial Virginia.

Milley said the military has made important progress on race issues but has much yet to do, including creating the conditions for a larger proportion of African American officers to rise to the military’s senior ranks. He noted that his service, the Army, has just one African American four-star general, and mentioned that the Air Force is about to swear in the first-ever African American service chief.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

All News

A woman charged last month with sexual battery after she allegedly tugged on another woman's skirt ...

Ashley Imlay, KSL.com

Woman in St. George skirt-pulling incident fired from Utah AG’s office, records show

A woman who was filmed and went viral in St. George skirt-pulling incident has been fired from her government job.

1 hour ago

File: Day Two of the Girl Gamer Esports Festival in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Cyber security exp...

Aimee Cobabe

Parents, do you know who’s chatting with the kids on Roblox?

Roblox is an online gaming platform used by 71.5 million people every day. About half of those users are under age 13.

2 hours ago

housing unit growth in Utah...

Carter Williams, KSL.com

Utah leads nation in housing unit growth, so why did privately owned units drop?

Housing unit growth is Utah is the highest in the United States, however private home ownership has plummeted.

2 hours ago

Graduation rate...

Jeff Caplan

Jeff Caplan’s Minute of News: The Graduation Speech of the year

A high school valedictorian put it all in perspective at his graduation.

3 hours ago

High amounts of spring runoff cause swelling of rivers across the state....

Curt Gresseth

What to do if someone — even you — falls into a river

An expert on water safety and rescue shares advice on what to do if someone -- or even you -- falls into a river, now being driven by ice-cold spring runoff.

4 hours ago

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall speaks at the City-County Building in Salt Lake City, May 5, 2...

Aimee Cobabe

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall is asking for a pay raise

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall is looking to increase her pay for up to 26% which will make an additional $44,000 a year. She is also proposing a 5% pay increase for all city employees for this year.

10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

Top general apologizes for appearing with Trump during church walk