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Trump courts ‘bloodshed, riots’ with inflammatory rhetoric, former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says


JANUARY 4, 2021

Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller has not commented on a Washington Post op-ed signed by 10 former defense secretaries asserting that the Pentagon has no role in electoral disputes. – Chip Somodevilla, AFP via Getty Images

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned of “bloodshed and riots” after President Donald Trump’s latest attempt to overturn the election.

Hagel and Sen. Jack Reed, the Democrats’ top member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, expressed alarm Monday after Trump’s attempt to pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s win there. Hagel and Reed, D-R.I., also said the possibility that Trump would attempt to involve the military to retain power is particularly worrisome.

Hagel, who was defense secretary for President Barack Obama from 2013 to 2015, and the other nine living former defense secretaries signed an op-ed  published by The Washington Post on Sunday that stated the Pentagon has no role in electoral politics. It called on acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller to aid the transition at the Pentagon to the Biden administration and admonished Miller and others to “refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team.”

Miller had no comment on the op-ed from his predecessors, according to the Pentagon.

The extraordinary letter, signed by Republicans and Democrats, including Trump’s first two Defense secretaries, was necessary to try to avert a calamity on Wednesday, when Congress formally counts votes from the Electoral College, or Jan. 20, Inauguration Day, Hagel said.

“President Trump keeps inciting people,” Hagel said in an interview. “And that’s very dangerous because you could have bloodshed. On January 6, certainly on January 20 when there is this transition of power. It’s not going to work, of course. It’s a futile mission. But this could lead to real problems across our country. Bloodshed and riots.”

Trump has urged his supporters to protest in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.  The District of Columbia National Guard announced Monday that about 340 troops would be activated to assist local law enforcement agencies with expected protests.

Since the civil unrest after the death last summer of George Floyd, a Black man who died while being pinned by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Pentagon officials have resisted the deployment of active-duty troops on America’s streets. Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Mark Milley, argued against invoking the Insurrection Act, which would have allowed Trump to tap combat troops to quell domestic protests.

Milley has said several times that the Constitution has no provision for the military’s involvement in elections. Late in December, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, a Trump appointee, and Gen. James McConville, the Army’s chief of staff, issued a statement affirming Milley’s stance.

Reed, in an interview and not speaking about the op-ed, said he expected civilian and uniformed leaders of the military to adhere to their constitutional duties and avoid being drawn into politics by Trump.

“The military is not a political force that can be used by a politician for his own purpose,” Reed said. “So far the the bulwark of the professionalism of military officers has been the saving factor. But it’s completely reckless and irresponsible for the president to do this.”

Reed branded as “preposterous” the declaration of martial law, which has reportedly been urged by Trump’s former national security adviser, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. He predicted Trump would not find military officers willing to carry out unconstitutional orders.

“They won’t do that,” Reed said. “I think the other factor, though, too, is that they would be supported by a bipartisan Congress. And also, if necessary, the courts.”

In signing the op-ed, Hagel said he considered the balance between warning the public about Trump’s increasingly “erratic” behavior and a desire not to sow panic.

“It is alarming,” Hagel said. “I don’t want to overstate it and get everybody all juiced up and say, ‘Oh my God, we better go down to the hardware store and buy a gun right here.’ I don’t want to do that either. But I do think that it was serious enough that it needed to be written and needed to be published.”

Courtesy/Source: This article originally appeared on USA TODAY