“President-elect Biden will become our 46th Commander in Chief.”
The Joint Chiefs of Staff issued an extraordinary statement to the entire armed services of the United States on Tuesday afternoon, affirming Joe Biden as the lawfully-elected president-elect and condemning last week’s assault on the U.S. Capitol as “a direct assault on the U.S. Congress, the Capitol building, and our Constitutional process.”
“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,” read the memo, signed Tuesday by all eight members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including Chairman Gen. Mark Milley.
That the military’s senior-most uniformed leaders should feel compelled to issue such a message to the force reflects not only deep-seated concerns about the impact bitter national division may have within the force, but also a tacit recognition that the military still remains one of the most trusted organizations in an American deeply divided over its own institutions.
The memo exhorts service members to abide by their oath to “[protect and defend] the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” An unknown number of current and former U.S. troops participated in Wednesday’s bloody assault on the Capitol, part of a broader protest against lawmakers who were there certifying Biden’s election win.
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“Very strong statement to the Joint Force from ALL members of the Joint Chiefs,” said Jim Golby, a scholar of civil-military relations, in a tweet. “It affirms the rule of law, clearly calls out the attack on our Constitutional processes, reminds the force of their duties, and affirms the election outcome. I think it hits exactly the right tone.”
“Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath; it is against the law,” the joint chiefs wrote in their statement, in what amounts to a stinging rebuke of Trump.
The president on Wednesday encouraged a frenzied mob of his supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol to “fight” because “you’ll never take back our country with weakness.” Even as Vice President Mike Pence was being evacuated from the Senate floor, where he was presiding over the certification process, Trump tweeted that he “didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.” After the mob rampaged through the Capitol, killing a Capitol police officer, assaulting journalists and ransacking the building, Trump praised the rioters as “special” and “patriots” who should not be “disrespected.”