Updated Jun 11, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Joint Chiefs chair apologizes for participating in Trump's church photo op

Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, apologized Thursday for his participation in President Trump's photo op at St. John's Church last week.

Why it matters: Milley's comments come as tensions remain high between Trump and the Pentagon over the incident, which was preceded by the clearing of peaceful protesters from the area.

  • "I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics," Milley said during a prerecorded commencement address to National Defense University.
  • "As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from."

The big picture: The president has also clashed with Defense Secretary Mark Esper on the topic, prompting chatter that he was losing favor with Trump.

  • "I did know we were going to the church," Esper said last week. "I did not know a photo op was happening. ... I do everything I can to try to stay apolitical and to try and stay out of situations that may appear political."
  • The Times reported that Milley similarly believed that he was going "to review National Guard troops and other law enforcement personnel outside Lafayette Square."
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