The Lincoln Project recognizes the long and distinguished national service of General Milley and honors him for it. Likewise, the Lincoln Project appreciates the service of Secretary of Defense Esper. Nevertheless, their participation in the infamous events of June 1st was an egregious lapse in judgement, and they should resign their offices.

On that day, in front of the White House, the People’s House, Americans exercising their first amendment rights to speech and assembly were assaulted, tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed and beaten on the direct orders of the Attorney General of the United States.

The purpose of this assault was not done in the name of public safety, but to clear a path for President Donald Trump to appear in front of St John’s Episcopal Church to be photographed holding a Bible.

During this 45-minute spasm of violence, the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Bible, and historic St. John’s Church were desecrated by President Trump. He was accompanied by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

Secretary Esper claimed ignorance, stating: “I didn’t know where I was going.” He should have. His excuse is unacceptable for the man who serves as the civilian leader of the American military. It would be unacceptable for a 19-year-old rifleman.

Esper’s comments to governors earlier that day about controlling the “battlespace,” otherwise known as the streets of American cities, were appalling and represented a chilling lack of awareness of his duties and the role of the US military in American society.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff chose to accompany the president wearing his ACU (Army Combat Uniform.) General Milley surveyed the scene of the assault as if he was assessing recently secured territory on a battlefield.

It is unacceptable for the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to ever participate in political stunts. The events of June 1st will linger in infamy: 45 minutes of authoritarian theater culminating in an outbreak of violence against Americans peacefully exercising their rights.

The presence of the Secretary and Chairman at this ignominious event assaults the apolitical traditions of the US Military and has transformed them into political partisans. Their complicity is dangerous; it undermines the faith of the American people in the armed forces of the United States and politicizes the defense of the nation.

Honor and fidelity to their oaths require them to accept responsibility for their misjudgments but also to rebuke the conduct of the actions and manipulation of the United States military for Donald Trump’s political purposes. They must set an example. Their duty requires it. They must resign.

Very Respectfully,

The Lincoln Project


There is no time for complacency.

There is no time for living room activism. Every day must be spent asking ourselves if we’re doing our part, if we’re doing enough to ensure that the grand idea called America continues.

Thank you for joining us in this fight.