Sep 29, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Milley appears to call Trump "wannabe dictator" in exit speech

Mark Milley inspects the troops during an Armed Forces Farewell Tribute in his honor on Sept. 29. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Mark Milley said Friday that military members "don't take an oath to a wannabe dictator," but to the Constitution.

Driving the news: With an apparent swipe at former President Trump, Milley spoke about the ideals of public service during a ceremony marking his retirement.

  • While he didn't refer to Trump by name, Milley's remarks appeared to be a veiled reference to the former president.

Catch up quick: President Trump last week accused Milley of committing a "treasonous act" by communicating with China surrounding the Jan. 6 riot. Trump added that the punishment should be death.

  • Trump's post came after the Atlantic published a profile detailing how the nation's top general navigated the Trump presidency.
  • Milley, who was appointed by Trump in 2018, testified to Congress in fall 2021 that he made now-controversial phone calls to his Chinese counterpart in the days after the riot assuring him that the U.S. wouldn't attack China.
  • The calls were first reported in the book "Peril" by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
  • News of the calls angered critics who questioned whether Milley went too far, with several Republicans calling for his resignation or firing at the time.

Details: When asked about Trump's comments earlier this week, Milley acknowledged he'd taken additional safety measures for himself and his family as a result of them.

  • Milley said he had never made any calls to China that could be considered treasonous.

What they're saying: "We don't take an oath to a tribe. We don't take an oath to a religion. We don't take an oath to a king, or queen, or tyrant, or a dictator. And we don't take an oath to a wannabe dictator," Milley said at the ceremony Friday.

  • "We take an oath to the Constitution and we take an oath to the idea that is America, and we're willing to die to protect it," he said.
  • "Every soldier, sailor, airman, marine, guardian and coast guard — each of us commits our very life to protect and defend that document, regardless of personal price."

Worth noting: Milley and Trump's relationship also took a downturn during the summer 2020, after police used tear gas to clear protesters Lafayette Square for a photo opportunity.

  • Milley later apologized for his appearance at the event, saying it "created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics."
  • Milley's apology reportedly angered Trump.

State of play: Milley has concluded a four-year tenure as the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

  • "You have given remarkable service to our country. You have done honor to the uniform of our nation. You have upheld your oath," President Biden said earlier in the ceremony.
  • The ceremony also included the swearing in of Charles Q. Brown Jr. as the new chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
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