Questions about the 2020 presidential election have been litigated in court and it is time for Congress and the entire nation to accept President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s victory, 10 former defense secretaries wrote in an op-ed Sunday that warned against any attempts to involve the Pentagon in electoral disputes.
In a piece for The Washington Post, all 10 living former Pentagon chiefs — including former Vice President Dick Cheney, along with President Trump’s appointees, James Mattis and Mark Esper — said that the U.S. must continue its centuries-long record of peaceful transfers of power.
“Our elections have occurred. Recounts and audits have been conducted. Appropriate challenges have been addressed by the courts,” the secretaries wrote. “Governors have certified the results. And the electoral college has voted. The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived.”
They also delivered a not-so-subtle message to Republican lawmakers who plan to object this week to certifying Mr. Biden’s victory.
“Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory,” they wrote. “Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic.”
Critics of Mr. Trump have warned that he may seek to declare martial law in a bid to stay in power.
While a couple of prominent Trump supporters have urged that path on him, both the president and other White House officials have strongly denied those suggestions.
Military leaders, meanwhile, have steadfastly maintained that the Pentagon will play no role whatsoever in resolving any questions about the election.
The Electoral College has certified Mr. Biden as the winner, though Mr. Trump continues to contest the results in Georgia, Pennsylvania and other key battleground states.
The Trump campaign’s legal effort to overturn results in those states so far has failed.
The former defense secretaries’ letter comes just days before a sizable number of Republicans in both the House and Senate are planning to formally object to certifying Mr. Biden’s votes in several key states.
In their piece, the 10 ex-Pentagon leaders also called on the Defense Department to cooperate fully with Mr. Biden’s transition team.
Mr. Biden has accused the Pentagon of stonewalling and restricting access to crucial information, though the Defense Department has vehemently denied those allegations.
In addition to Mr. Cheney, Mr. Mattis and Mr. Esper, the other writers of the op-ed are: Ashton Carter, William Cohen, Robert Gates, Chuck Hagel, Leon Panetta, William Perry and Donald Rumsfeld.