U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper speaks during the joint press conference with Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford (not in the picture) on August 28, 2019 in Arlington, Virginia.
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WASHINGTON — “Where will you draw the line, and when will you draw it?”
In an extraordinary resignation letter, provided to The Washington Post, James Miller resigned from his post at the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board.
Miller, a former undersecretary of defense for policy, cited Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s participation in President Donald Trump’s Monday night photo op in front of St. John’s Church.
The resignation comes as the nation braced for its eighth night of protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd.
When I joined the Board in early 2014, after leaving government service as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, I again swore an oath of office, one familiar to you, that includes the commitment to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States . . . and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”
You recited that same oath on July 23, 2019, when you were sworn in as Secretary of Defense. On Monday, June 1, 2020, I believe that you violated that oath. Law-abiding protesters just outside the White House were dispersed using tear gas and rubber bullets — not for the sake of safety, but to clear a path 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.
President Trump’s actions Monday night violated his oath to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” as well as the First Amendment “right of the people peaceably to assemble.” You may not have been able to stop President Trump from directing this appalling use of force, but you could have chosen to oppose it. Instead, you visibly supported it.
Anyone who takes the oath of office must decide where he or she will draw the line: What are the things that they will refuse to do? Secretary Esper, you have served honorably for many years, in active and reserve military duty, as Secretary of the Army, and now as Secretary of Defense. You must have thought long and hard about where that line should be drawn. I must now ask: If last night’s blatant violations do not cross the line for you, what will?
Miller ended the letter by saying, “I wish you the best, in very difficult times. The sanctity of the U.S. Constitution, and the lives of Americans, may depend on your choices.”
The Pentagon did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
The presidential photo op
US President Donald Trump holds up a bible in front of St John’s Episcopal church after walking across Lafayette Park from the White House in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020.
Brendan Smialowski | AFP via Getty Images
During a White House address Monday night, in which Trump threatened to deploy active-duty U.S. military if states failed to quell demonstrations, riot police forcibly cleared protesters out of Lafayette Square, a public park in front of the president’s residence.
Once the protesters were forcibly cleared, Trump walked through the square with…