Top Pentagon official resigns, accuses Defense Secretary Esper of violating oath of office

President Donald Trump has received quite a bit of criticism after Lafayette Square near the White House was forcibly cleared of protesters on Monday night, shortly before he posed for photos in front of a fire-damaged St. John’s Episcopal Church. And it seems even members of his own administration aren’t immune.

James Miller, a top Pentagon official, has submitted his resignation to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, accusing him of violating his oath of office by appearing alongside Trump for the photo opportunity, according to The Hill.

Miller served as undersecretary of Defense under the Obama administration from 2012 to 2014, after which he joined the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board as an adviser. He continued to hold that position until Tuesday’s resignation.

“You visibly supported it”

Miller’s letter was published in The Washington Post and referenced Esper’s sworn oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States…and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

Miller argued that the Defense secretary “violated that oath” in the aftermath of “tear gas and rubber bullets” being used to disperse protesters near the White House — all for a presidential photo op.

“You then accompanied President Trump in walking from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church for that photo,” he concluded.

Miller also contended that, even if Esper had not been able to stop the president from giving the order, he could have opposed it.

“Instead, you visibly supported it,” he wrote. “Where will you draw the line, and when will you draw it?”

“We are not in one of those situations”

Of course, the U.S. Park Police deny claims that officers used tear gas and contended that not all of the protesters were peaceful. Furthermore, the Washington Examiner reported that the order to clear the park of protesters had originated with U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, not the president.

For Esper’s part, he has since claimed that he did not know about Trump’s plans to visit the church, where the president held up a Bible but did not offer any public remarks, according to NBC News. The Defense secretary also spoke out against Trump’s threat to deploy U.S. military troops on American streets in response to violent and destructive demonstrations.

“I say this not only as secretary of Defense, but also as a former soldier, and a former member of the National Guard: The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations,” he said in a statement on Wednesday, according to USA Today. “We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.”

It seems clear there are no easy answers to the ongoing turmoil that erupted in response to George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last week. The need to use force against those who intend to cause physical or property damage, however, is a harsh reality that leaders have had to accept during riots at several critical points in the nation’s history.

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