- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 7, 2021

President Trump and other Republicans laid the groundwork for Wednesday’s assault on the U.S. Capitol after spreading misinformation to supporters and actively undermining Americans’ faith in the electoral process, two of the president’s former defense secretaries said late Wednesday.

In sharp statements, former Pentagon chiefs James Mattis and Mark T. Esper — both of whom were hand-picked for the job by Mr. Trump before exiting their posts amid foreign policy disagreements with the White House — blasted the pro-Trump riots that left at least four people dead and temporarily derailed the official Electoral College certification of President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s victory.

“Today’s violent assault on our Capitol, an effort to subjugate American democracy by mob rule, was fomented by Mr. Trump,” Mr. Mattis said in a statement. “His use of the presidency to destroy trust in our election and to poison our respect for fellow citizens has been enabled by pseudo political leaders whose names will live in infamy as profiles in cowardice.”

Mr. Mattis resigned in late 2018 over differences with Mr. Trump’s policy in Syria.

Mr. Esper, meanwhile, was fired shortly after last November’s election and has quickly become a top Trump critic.

“This afternoon’s assault on the US Capitol was appalling and un-American. This is not how citizens of the world’s greatest and oldest democracy behave,” Mr. Esper said on Twitter. “The perpetrators who committed this illegal act were inspired by partisan misinformation and patently false claims about the election. This must end now for the good of the republic.”

“I commend Congressional leaders for meeting tonight to complete their Constitutional task of counting the electoral college votes that will affirm Joe Biden as the next president of the United States,” he continued in a series of posts on Twitter. “As this transition plays out over the next two weeks, I am confident the U.S. military will stay out of politics, and remain true to its sworn oath to support and defend the Constitution, and the American people, as the most trusted and respected institution in the country.”

Current Pentagon officials — such as acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley — worked with congressional and D.C. officials Wednesday night to deploy National Guard troops to Washington. A Pentagon statement said they had spoken with Vice President Mike Pence but made no mention of Mr. Trump.

Congress early Thursday morning formally confirmed the Electoral College vote count, cementing the wins of Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris. Mr. Trump later promised a peaceful transition of power on Jan. 20.

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