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Milley at the Pentagon, Sept. 22. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley held an off-the-record video call with top generals and network anchors this weekend to tamp down speculation about potential military involvement in the presidential election, two people familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: The nation's top military official set up Saturday's highly unusual call to make clear that the military's role is apolitical, one of the sources said — and to dispel any notion of a role for the military in adjudicating a disputed election or making any decision around removing a president from the White House.

  • Milley told the anchors that the U.S. military would have no role whatsoever in a peaceful transfer of power, one source added.
  • One official told the anchors not to be alarmed if they see images of uniformed National Guard members on Election Day; currently, they are not federalized but serving at the request of governors.
  • Through a spokesperson, Milley and the other generals declined comment.

The call follows public speculation by activists and political leaders about the role of the military. Joe Biden recently told the Daily Show's Trevor Noah that he was "absolutely convinced" the military would "escort [Trump] from the White House in a dispatch" if he refused to leave office.

  • Axios did not participate in the call and is not a party to the off-the-record agreement.

Behind the scenes: Two other four-star generals joined Milley on the call: commander of the U.S. Cyber Command Paul Nakasone and National Guard chief Daniel Hokanson.

  • ABC's George Stephanopoulos, CBS' Norah O'Donnell, NBC's Lester Holt, CNN's Jim Sciutto and Fox's Martha MacCallum participated, per one of the sources.
  • The generals talked about military efforts to secure key infrastructure against cyberattacks.
  • They confirmed that foreign actors have tried to influence this election, but said none appears positioned to change votes.

Flashback: Milley testified to Congress in August that "I believe deeply in the principle of an apolitical U.S. military." In the case of a dispute in elections, he said, "by law, U.S. courts and the U.S. Congress are required to resolve any disputes, not the U.S. military. I foresee no role for the U.S. armed forces in this process."

Go deeper

Off the Rails

A premeditated lie lit the fire

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

"Jared, you call the Murdochs! Jason, you call Sammon and Hemmer!”

President Trump was almost shouting. He directed his son-in-law and his senior strategist from his private quarters at the White House late on election night. He barked out the names of top Fox News executives and talent he expected to answer to him.

6 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

6 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."