Trump wanted ex-military critics tried at court-martial, top general said

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Former president Donald Trump pushed to forcibly recall retired military officers who spoke out against him to active duty so they could be tried at court-martial and jailed, according to General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Gen Milley, the highest-ranking officer in the US military whose position makes him the chief military adviser to the President of the United States, made the startling admission during an interview with the House January 6 select committee.

Prompted by a question from Representative Elaine Luria on whether he has concerns about a series of inflammatory statements made by retired US Army general Michael Flynn which Ms Luria described as advocating the overthrow of the US government, the US Marine general noted that “anyone” who retires from the US military and receives retirement pay is still “subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice for the rest of their life,” and told committee members that the question of recalling retired officers for court-martial came up “a couple cases during the Trump administration”.

“There was a couple of editorials written by retired flag officers that you would recognize their names — that were very critical of then President Trump, highly critical of President Trump. And there was actually discussions with me: Bring him back on Active Duty, court-martial him, you know, make him walk the plank sort of thing,” he said.

The allegations related by General Milley were also reported in a book by former defence secretary Mark Esper, but the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman’s statement under oath provides further confirmation of Mr Trump’s push to punish his critics.

Gen Milley told Ms Luria, who is herself a retired US Navy officer, that he advised against doing so because it would “further politicise” the US armed forces.

He added that Mr Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during the bureau’s probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election but was later pardoned by Mr Trump, is “saying things and doing things” that he “absolutely fundamentally disagree[s] with on so many levels,” but he cautioned that to recall him to active duty “to court-martial him and subject him to crimes based on the Uniform Code of Military Justice is a giant step”.

“I’m not saying it can’t be done or shouldn’t be done. I’m just saying that that would be a Presidential decision. It would need to be rigorously thought out, with all the puts and takes and all the costs and risks and benefits, not something that should be done lightly,” he said.

The general said his advice on whether to recall Mr Flynn would be the same advice he gave Mr Trump when he pressed to forcibly recall critics such as Admiral William McRaven, the ex-Joint Special Operations Command boss who oversaw the raid that ended the life of Osama bin Laden.

“I would say: Not yet, no. I don’t think it rises to that level,” he said. “I think that’s a very serious thing, though, and it further politicizes. And I’m really concerned about politicizing the military.”