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Former defense secretaries state: There’s no military role in election disputes

“Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory,” they write.

Then-Defense Secretary James Mattis looking at President Donald Trump during an Oval Office meeting on March 24, 2017.
Then-Defense Secretary James Mattis looking at President Donald Trump during an Oval Office meeting on March 24, 2017.
REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Happy New Year to MinnPost readers from your humble and obedient scribbler. In case you are into such things, I would note that the strangely named new year, 20-21, represents the first time in a 101 years we have had a year consisting of two consecutive numbers. (The last one was 19-20. The next one will be 21-22. See you then.)

In case you missed it, there are currently 10 former secretaries of defense still living, and they all signed an op-ed published in Sunday’s Washington Post stating that the U.S. military must not interfere in any way with the peaceful transfer of power in the aftermath of a presidential election.

The list includes not only secretaries who served under both Democratic and Republican presidents, and one (Robert Gates) who served under both a Republican and a Democrat, but notably two who served under Donald Trump (Gen. James Mattis, Trump’s first Defense secretary, and Mark Esper, who left that post less than two months ago, fired by Trump — in a tweet — after Esper expressed his disagreement with Trump’s decision to use active military troops in U.S. cities, a job Esper said was more appropriate for the National Guard).

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The 10-secretary letter included this passage:

Our elections have occurred. Recounts and audits have been conducted. Appropriate challenges have been addressed by the courts. Governors have certified the results. And the Electoral College has voted. The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the Electoral College votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived.

As senior Defense Department leaders have noted, “there’s no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election.” Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory.

The full opinion piece, and the full roster of signatories, is viewable here.