Pentagon’s top general says military won’t evict Trump if he loses

Reassuring or worrying? It depends on the context.

This article contains news with commentary

Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Mark Milley told Congress “the military will not play a role in November’s election and won’t help settle any disputes if the results are contested,” the Associated Press reported on Friday, Aug. 28, 2020.

“The Constitution and laws of the US and the states establish procedures for carrying out elections, and for resolving disputes over the outcome of elections …. I do not see the US military as part of this process …. In the event of a dispute over some aspect of the elections, by law U.S. courts and the U.S. Congress are required to resolve any disputes, not the U.S. Military. I believe deeply in the principle of an apolitical U.S. military,”
Milley said in a letter to Democratic House members. Read story here.
That’s reassuring if you believe Trump might try to use the military to stay in office. But worrying if, like former Bush speechwriter David Frum, you believe “Trump regards himself as a wartime president of Red America against Blue America.” (Read Frum’s essay here) The idea of a civil war — which some rightwing extremists openly talk about — has all sorts of ramifications.
One is that a sitting president (say, a President Joe Biden) might need the military to put down a violent revolt against our democratic system. In 1861, when the South bolted, Lincoln called upon the U.S. Army to defeat the secession and preserve the Union.
Frum framed his essay in such terms, calling Trump “a secessionist from the top,” which he didn’t explicitly define, but seems to visualize Trump not accepting an election defeat and, if he can’t stay in office, leading his supporters out of our democratic system — and conceivably calling on armed rightwing militias to help him hold onto effective power. Baseball umpire Rob Drake hinted at such a thing during Trump’s impeachment, but later apologized; however, there’s little doubt such thinking infects some of diehard Trump supporters.
Back in June, Biden said of the military he’s “convinced they will escort him from the White House with great dispatch” if he loses but refuses to leave — a scenario his staff brushed off. But it’s a concern Trump has encouraged by claiming there’s no way for Democrats to win except by cheating and he might not accept a loss.
If Biden is elected, it’s hard to see how the military could refuse to follow his orders. Besides the Lincoln precedent, President Eisenhower used federal troops to enforce the Supreme Court’s school integration order; and National Guard troops, who are part of the military and under Pentagon control, have been used against violent labor strikes and riots. It seems beyond argument that a President Biden could use troops to quash an armed revolt (by, say, rightwing private militias) if one occurred.
Gen. Milley appeared to stop short of saying the Pentagon wouldn’t follow a new president’s orders to put down a domestic insurrection, and his message seemed to be that the military wouldn’t get involved in settling a disputed election, which is the right answer, if that’s the question. But if so, then he dodged the real question, which is what the Pentagon would do if Trump led a revolt after the election was determined in Biden’s favor. Understandably, it’s a question no one in his position would want to answer while Trump is still legally president.
How realistic are these scenarios? Snopes rated the statement, “U.S. President Donald Trump said he will not leave office at the end of his elected term” as “Mostly False” (here). That was in June 2020, two months ago.
Underlying these debates is the larger question of whether Trump has any boundaries, and if so, where they are. He defines himself as a rule-breaker, and that appeals to his supporters. He seems to have had very few boundaries in his personal and business life, and almost none as President — he’s seen as a man who’s willing to do anything he can get away with. Yet, he appears to hedge his rhetoric at crucial junctures, which suggests there’s indeed a line he won’t cross (while seeming to still encourage his supporters to cross it).
But Trump is, if nothing else, unpredictable. He loves using over-the-top rhetoric, and loves trolling his opponents. His loyal followers consider “trolling liberals” a sport they relish playing. Perhaps enough of them are bad sports — and nuts — that the military might have to step in if their side loses the election. All of these questions eventually will be answered. But for now, we don’t know what game they’re playing, and probably won’t get a good fix on that until sometime after Jan. 20, 2021.

0 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. G #

    God help us! I think it will come down to the votes. Enough it loses by a landslide and the overwhelming majority vote for Biden, then when he doesn’t want to leave there will be less individuals on his side. But if he loses narrowly then the idiots that don’t really like him but voted for him anyways will have to much pride in seeing him sent off.

    This is a problem – he needs to lose by an overwhelming vote against him.

  2. Roger Rabbit #

    I think you nailed it. Biden doesn’t just need to win; he needs to win by enough so there’s no question he won. Otherwise, Trump will foment chaos. I’m nervous that Biden might lose.

  3. Mark Adams #

    If Biden is elected he will not become President until noon on January 20, 2021 completing the oath of office,
    Trump is General Milley’s boss until then.
    The military should not be involved if Trump refuses to leave the White House, that would be the Capitals police problem. Trump could set up a secret bunker next to President Obamas bunker since some say he never left Washington.

  4. Mark Adams #

    Using the logic of the people putting out this pablum, is it not just as likely on losing Trump would not resign and let Pence be President for a couple of months.

  5. Roger Rabbit #

    Why would he do that?

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