Hours before the eighth public hearing held by the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack, seven retired four-star generals and admirals joined together in an unprecedented statement condemning former President Donald Trump’s dereliction of duty and urging a renewed commitment to the rule of law and officials’ duty to protect and defend the US Constitution.
Admirals Steve Abbot, James Loy, John Nathman, and William Owens, joined by Generals Peter Chiarelli, John Jumper, and Johnnie Wilson, denounced former President Trump’s dereliction of duty during the sustained violence at the U.S. Capitol Building, writing:
“The inquiry by the House January 6 Select Committee has produced many startling findings, but none to us more alarming than the fact that while rioters thwarted the peaceful transfer of power and ransacked the Capitol, the commander in chief—former President Donald Trump—abdicated his duty to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.”
They explain to the American people the foundational principle of civilian control of the military essential to our democracy; and how such an arrangement rests on both civilian and military leaders honoring their oaths. Trump’s abdication of his oath threatened this arrangement:
“We each took an oath as former leaders of our nation’s armed forces to ‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.’ We fulfilled that oath through service to civilian leadership elected by and accountable to the American people. This essential arrangement, however, is not self-executing; it relies on civilian leaders equally committed to protecting and defending the Constitution—including, most importantly, the commander in chief.”
Finally, they provide this prescient call to action:
“The lesson of January 6 is clear. Our democracy is not a given. To preserve it, Americans must demand nothing less from their leaders than an unassailable commitment to country over party—and to their oaths above all.”
The issues identified by these distinguished authors illustrate the importance of the January 6 Committee’s continued, robust investigation into the events leading up to and including that day, as well as its aftermath. The committee’s findings and associated legal investigations are crucial to accountability for those responsible for inciting the insurrection and renewing a commitment to the rule of law.
Additional resources from Protect Democracy are available, including The Authoritarian Playbook: How reporters can contextualize and cover authoritarian threats as distinct from politics-as-usual; Toward Non-Recurrence, a framework for assessing and designing accountability for Trump-era transgressions against democracy, and our January 6 Media Guide.