WASHINGTON — Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley penned a memo to the armed forces on Tuesday reminding them of their oath to defend the Constitution and serve the American people.
The memo from the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, obtained by CBS News, reminds troops to embody the values of the Constitution, including the principle that all men and women are born equal, and includes an unusual handwritten note.
“We all committed our lives to the idea that is America — We will stay true to that oath and the American people,” Milley wrote to the Joint Forces.
The memo was dated with a handwritten June 2, the day after US Park Police cleared an area outside the White House — firing smoke canisters and pepper balls into the crowd to disperse them, ahead of the evening’s curfew, and minutes before President Trump visited St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Milley’s letter comes to light a day after Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Wednesday announced he was opposed to Trump’s determination to use the military to quell the violence roiling US cities following the death of George Floyd in police custody.
It also follows an op-ed in The Atlantic from Esper predecessor Gen. James Mattis criticizing the president’s leadership — and accusing him of trying to divide the American people.
Milley’s unclassified memo also told Joint Forces soldiers that the National Guard was operating under the authority of state governors, not the president, to “protect lives and property, preserve peace, and ensure public safety.”
“As members of the Joint Forces — comprised of all races, colors and creeds — you embody the values of our Constitution. Please remind all of our troops and leaders that we will uphold the values of our nation, and operate consistent with national laws and our own high standards of conduct at all times,” Milley wrote.
Trump on Monday threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 to send military forces to states experiencing once-in-a-generation unrest, vowing to override governors who did not ask his administration for help.
Both Esper and Milley were part of the entourage that accompanied Trump to St. John’s on Monday evening, with Esper later claiming he had no idea they were going to the church, which had been damaged by protesters the night before, for a “photo op.”
News – Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Milley reminds troops of oath to American people