General Mark Milley Publicly Embarrasses Trump During Thursday Snub

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In a now infamous June 1 incident, peaceful protesters against police brutality were attacked by authorities and forcefully cleared from an area outside the White House right before President Donald Trump walked out of the White House grounds to hold a photo op at a local church. The photo op had a conventionally Trumpian, haphazard feel — Trump even awkwardly held up a Bible during the photo op — but other figures like Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley were also on the scene. Milley has now apologized for his participation in the photo op, acknowledging in a pre-recorded commencement address to National Defense University students that his presence made the military seem involved with Trump’s domestic agenda.

Milley bluntly said:

‘I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics. As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from.’

The attack on peaceful protesters before Trump’s photo op included the usage of chemical irritants and rubber bullets — which, despite their potentially dubious-sounding name, can seriously injure those targeted with them. The Trump team has delivered various excuses for the attack, which targeted individuals who’d gathered around Lafayette Square. Attorney General Bill Barr, for instance, has claimed both that a decision to clear protesters from the area was made the day before the attack and that the crowd on June 1 was getting out-of-hand — although video from the scene makes clear that by and large, there was no provocation of police on the part of the overwhelming majority of protesters.

The New York Times reports:

‘[Milley’s] first public remarks since Mr. Trump’s photo op, in which federal authorities attacked peaceful protesters so that the president could hold up a Bible in front of St. John’s Church, are certain to anger the White House, where Mr. Trump has spent the days since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis taking increasingly tougher stances against the growing movement for change across the country… military leaders, after halting steps in the beginning, are now positioning themselves firmly with those calling for change. Mr. Trump’s walk across Lafayette Square, current and former military leaders say, has sparked a critical moment of reckoning in the military.’

Besides Milley’s implicit criticism of the debacle, Trump has also faced a mountain of criticism from other sources over his administration’s handling of the peaceful protesters. For example, retired General James Mattis, who served as the Defense Secretary in the Trump administration, has characterized Trump as a threat to the Constitution in the wake of the incident.

Milley’s own previous comments about the situation include an insistence to Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) that the military would not follow any illegal orders from the president. Trump has repeatedly threatened throughout recent weeks to send the military out into the streets of the U.S. to confront the protesters whose message he doesn’t like, although when armed white protesters stormed the Michigan state capitol building in protest of Coronavirus lockdowns, Trump wasn’t fazed.