The statement by the Joint Chiefs of Staff this week shows there are real concerns about Trump’s coup ambitions being taken to the ultimate level.
In an extraordinary intervention, the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the US armed forces issued a stark public admonition instructing all military personnel that they are duty-bound to obey the Constitution and only “lawful orders from civilian leadership”.
The fact that the top brass were compelled to publish the warning to rank and file troops shows there are apprehensions over escalating violence in the next week as the US oversees a disputed transfer of power and new presidency. The disquiet is not just about rank and file troops, but rather what the Trump White House might do amid outbreak of violence.
The rare move of making such a public statement is further proof of deep concerns that there is a cabal within the Pentagon doing President Donald Trump’s bidding. There is concern that Trump’s appointees, including acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, are prepared to sabotage the peaceful transfer of power and the inauguration of Democrat President-elect Joe Biden. That is, the cabal is willing to foment a coup against the electoral process.
In their joint statement, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, and seven other four-star generals wrote: “The American people have trusted the Armed Forces of the United States to protect them and our Constitution for almost 250 years. As we have done throughout our history, the US military will obey lawful orders from civilian leadership, support civil authorities to protect lives and property, ensure public safety in accordance with the law, and remain fully committed to protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
Furthermore, the top brass made it clear that the election is not subject to dispute as President Trump insists. The generals stated: “On January 20, 2021, in accordance with the Constitution, confirmed by the states and the courts, and certified by Congress, President-elect Biden will be inaugurated and will become our 46th Commander in Chief.”
In another pointed line, the Pentagon military chiefs noted: “As Service Members, we must embody the values and ideals of the Nation. We support and defend the Constitution. Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath; it is against the law.”
The statement followed the unprecedented assault on Congress last week when a joint session of House and Senate lawmakers was in the process of certifying the election of Biden, the Democrat candidate who won the popular vote in the presidential election on November 3 and the subsequent Electoral College mandate on December 14. Notably, the Joint Chiefs of Staff condemned the storming of the Capitol on January 6 as a “direct assault on the US Congress”.
The invasion of the Capitol by thousands of Trump supporters, including armed rightwing extremists, interrupted the certification process. Five people were killed. The incumbent Republican president had only minutes earlier that day incited the crowds to attack the Congress with incendiary yet unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen by the Democrats in a massive fraud against his “landslide victory”.
It has since emerged that the lapse in security around the legislature was not merely an oversight but appears to have been a deliberate scenario. Appeals for security back-up with National Guard troops were delayed by up to four hours despite frantic requests by the Washington DC local government officials and police chiefs. The delay in ordering troops to secure the Capitol was the responsibility of acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller. Miller, a former Green Beret, along with a cohort of other Trump loyalists, was installed in senior civilian positions at the Pentagon days after the November 3 election. There have been ongoing apprehensions that “all the president’s men” at the Pentagon are willing to enable his efforts to thwart the electoral process and force a second term in office.
The inordinate delay in sending in the National Guard reinforcements allowed rightwing militias to run amok in the Capitol. It is increasingly clear that their intent was to target individual lawmakers for kidnap or bodily harm. Several of the invaders were armed and in possession of zip ties for handcuffing.
As it turned out, the January 6 incursion of the Capitol was eventually quelled by National Guard and police support. Lawmakers continued their duty later that night to certify the election results, finalizing Biden’s victory. His inauguration is to take place next Wednesday on January 20.
But it seems that the events could have ended much more sinisterly. During the rampage, lawmakers sheltered in secure bunkers with armed security officers. What would have happened if the assailants had managed to accost the Congress members? The entire electoral process could have been aborted, and perhaps martial law imposed by the sitting president.
Subsequently, members of Congress have reportedly been briefed by FBI agents that there are ongoing credible plots to carry out abductions and assassinations by far-right extremists aiming to sabotage the inauguration of Biden as president.
Given reports that there were members of the armed forces and police, either off-duty or retired, who participated in the January 6 assault on the Congress it is by no means assured what would happen if armed clashes with protesters were to erupt over the next week as the inauguration date approaches.
Under US law, the chain of command in the US military is from the president down to his secretary of defense and thence to regional combat commanders. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are in a solely advisory role subordinate to the civilian command. Trump is the Commander-in-Chief up until January 20. With Miller as his righthand man and other members of a pro-Trump cabal at the Pentagon, the armed forces could be thrown into disarray from the issuance of invidious commands.
Trump has still not conceded the election to Biden, even at this late hour. He continues to assert that he and “75 million American patriots” were cheated. Trump’s diehard supporters are incensed by a perceived – albeit delusional – existential struggle against a “socialist takeover of America by Democrats”; they are armed to the teeth, and trained in militia tactics. With a pro-Trump cabal heading the Pentagon, the stakes are raised dangerously higher.
The statement by the Joint Chiefs of Staff this week shows there are real concerns about Trump’s coup ambitions being taken to the ultimate level, for which the January 6 mobbing of the US Capitol was only a primer.