Police use tear gas on protesters outside St. John's Episcopal Church near the White House on June 1. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images

Retired Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007 to 2011, wrote in an op-ed in The Atlantic Tuesday that he was "sickened" to see the National Guard use physical force on peaceful protestors to clear a path for President Trump's photo op at D.C.'s historic St. John’s Episcopal Church on Monday.

Why it matters: Mullen's op-ed is a rare condemnation of the president by a four-star admiral and the former highest-ranking officer in the U.S. armed forces. It comes amid widespread criticism Democrats and a handful of Republicans over Trump's decision to take the photo.

What he's saying: "I have to date been reticent to speak out on issues surrounding President Trump's leadership, but we are at an inflection point, and the events of the past few weeks have made it impossible to remain silent," Mullen wrote.

  • "Whatever Trump's goal in conducting his visit, he laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife, and risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces," he said. "There was little good in the stunt."
  • "I remain confident in the professionalism of our men and women in uniform. They will serve with skill and with compassion. They will obey lawful orders. But I am less confident in the soundness of the orders they will be given by this commander in chief, and I am not convinced that the conditions on our streets, as bad as they are, have risen to the level that justifies a heavy reliance on military troops."

Go deeper: GOP senators scold Trump over St. John's photo op

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Tim Scott says Trump "misspoke" when he told Proud Boys to "stand by"

Photo: Bonnie Cash/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told reporters on Wednesday that he believes President Trump "misspoke" when he told the far-right "Proud Boys" group to "stand back and stand by" in response to a question about condemning white supremacy at the first presidential debate.

Catch up quick: Moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump on Tuesday, "Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down?" Trump asked who specifically he should condemn, and then responded, "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left."

Updated 15 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Commission on Presidential Debates wants changes

Photos: Jim Watson and Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Wednesday that it plans to implement changes to rules for the remaining debates, after Tuesday night's head-to-head between Joe Biden and Donald Trump was practically incoherent for most of the night.

What they are saying: "Last night's debate made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues," the CPD said in a statement.

Trump says he doesn't know who Proud Boys are after telling them to "stand by"

President Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he doesn't know who the "Proud Boys" are, after saying at the presidential debate last night that the far-right group should "stand back and stand by" in response to a question asking him to condemn white supremacists.

Why it matters: The comments set off outrage and calls for clarification from a number of Republican senators. After being asked several times on Wednesday whether he will condemn white supremacy, Trump responded: "I have always denounced any form — any form of any of that, you have to denounce. But I also — Joe Biden has to say something about antifa."