The military’s top officer today defended efforts to maintain discipline in the ranks amid stiff questioning from lawmakers on whether President Donald Trump’s intervention in the cases of three service members accused or convicted of war crimes will create chaos on the battlefield.
“We do maintain, and we will maintain, good order and discipline,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley told the House Armed Services Committee. “We will not turn into a gang of raping, burning and pillaging throughout … That is not going to happen as a result of this or anything else.”
Milley was responding to questions from Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), who read the four-star general a text message from a Marine sergeant major who called Trump’s pardon’s “appalling” and said it would encourage troops to begin “burning villages and pillaging like Genghis Khan.”
Trump pardoned Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance and Maj. Mathew Golsteyn and restored the rank of Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher in November despite concerns doing so would hurt the military justice system and undermine good order in the ranks. In earlier questions from Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Milley said each of the three cases is different.
“I know the advice that was given, which I’m not going to share here … but the president of the United States is part of the process,” Milley told Moulton. “And he has the legal authorities to do what he did and he weighed the conditions and the situation as he saw fit.”
Moulton shot back: “This is a sergeant major of the Marines who’s got a Purple Heart and a Navy Cross and we’re defending the actions of a draft dodger in our president.”
“I am not defending anyone’s actions,” Milley responded.
Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) interjected: “Yes, the president is part of the process, but what we’re concerned about is the way he’s being part of the process right now is unhelpful.”