General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, apologized today for walking across Lafayette Square with President Donald Trump shortly after the Park Police cleared protesters from the area using excessive force and violence. Trump and his entourage, that also included Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, walked from the White House to the St John’s Episcopal Church on June 1 for a memorably awkward photo-op with a copy of the Bible.
Today, while addressing the National Defense University, General Milley said, “As many of you saw, the result of the photograph of me at Lafayette Square last week – that sparked a national debate about the role of the military in civil society. 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.” He added, “As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from, and I sincerely hope we all can learn from it.”
Milley’s apology won him accolades, especially from servicemen and veterans.
Milley also earned raise from Sen. Lindsey Graham who is seen as a staunch Trump backer.
Earlier, Defense Secretary Mark Esper too, had distanced himself from the president’s actions on that day. In an interview to NBC News on June 2, Esper had said that he thought they were going to inspect some damage and speak to the troops. However, he later amended his version at a news briefing on June 3, admitting that he was aware of the Church visit. Esper said, “I did know that following the president’s remarks on Monday evening that many of us were going to join President Trump and review the damage in Lafayette Park and at St John’s Episcopal Church. What I was not aware of was exactly where we were going when I arrived at the church and what the plans were once we got there.” Meanwhile, Esper made no bones about his displeasure with the use of active duty forces, insisting that the National Guard were better suited for the job.
*Feature Image: President Donald J. Trump walks from the White House Monday evening, June 1, 2020, to St. John’s Episcopal Church, that was damaged by fire during demonstrations in nearby LaFayette Square Sunday evening. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)