The nation's top military officer told a group of service members on Thursday in Washington, D.C. that he made the wrong decision to accompany President Trump on a walk through Lafayette Square earlier this month, moments after the park had been forcefully cleared of demonstrators protesting the police killing of George Floyd.
"I should not have been there," Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley told graduates of the National Defense University in a commencement speech.
"As a commissioned, uniformed officer, it was a mistake," Milley said flatly. "My presence in that moment, and in that environment, created a perception of a military involved in domestic politics."
Wearing combat fatigues, Milley was photographed - along with Defense Secretary Mark Esper - walking through the park minutes after police used smoke canisters, pepper balls, riot shields and batons to forcefully clear out protesters for the President's walk, where he was photographed in front of St. John's church.
In his remarks, Milley said his presence with President Trump sent the wrong message to the military and the nation.
"We must hold dear the principle of an apolitical military that is so deeply rooted in the very essence of our Republic," Milley said in his speech.
Milley finished by telling graduates of the National Defense University to 'embrace the Constitution.'
"Keep it close to your heart. It is our North Star. It's our map to a better future," Milley said.
Milley's apology fell short with some Democrats in Congress, who argue the military did not stand up to the President in real time.
Milley's statement came as President Trump again expressed satisfaction with the push to clear Lafayette Square.
“Our great National Guard Troops who took care of the area around the White House could hardly believe how easy it was,” the President wrote on Twitter.
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