"The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived." So reads an unusual op-ed that appeared Sunday in the Washington Post, co-signed by all 10 living ex-defense secretaries. The former secretaries—including James Mattis and Mark Esper, who both served under President Trump, as well as Ashton Carter, Dick Cheney, William Cohen, Robert Gates, Chuck Hagel, Leon Panetta, William Perry, and Donald Rumsfeld—who served under GOP and Democrat presidents stretching back to Gerald Ford, caution that the military has no place getting involved in any of the hubbub surrounding the election, and that "efforts to involve the US armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful, and unconstitutional territory."
They also warn acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller that he and his underlings must "refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team." Politico notes the write-up, which one ex-Defense Dept. official calls "exceptional in its scope and directness," came about after a Dec. 26 Post column by David Ignatius warning the US is in "a danger zone" until Joe Biden's election win is certified on Wednesday, with an unlikely but still-present possibility that Trump could use the military to try to cling to power. Mattis and Esper required a bit of convincing to participate in the op-ed but eventually came on board, says Eric Edelman, a defense undersecretary under George W. Bush who penned the op-ed's first draft. Perry noted on Twitter the idea came from Cheney. Cohen, meanwhile, told CNN the piece was a call to "patriotic" Americans who've been "led down [an unconstitutional] path by President Trump." Full op-ed here. (Read more defense secretary stories.)