Trump believed the military 'swore an oath to him' and could be ordered to do any illegal act he wanted: Navy vet
Donald Trump with members of the U.S. military (Photo via AFP)

On Friday, writing for The Bulwark, Navy veteran and Brennan Center for Justice fellow Theodore Johnson argued that former President Donald Trump believed that just because he was the commander-in-chief, the military "swore an oath to him personally," and could be ordered to do whatever he wanted, regardless of whether it was legal or constitutional.

This was thrown into sharp relief, Johnson wrote, by two major recent news stories: the release of Gen. Mark Milley's draft resignation letter that he never sent to the former president accusing him of politicizing the military, and Trump's hoarding of highly classified information, potentially including nuclear weapons secrets, that led the FBI to execute a search warrant at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

"These historic occurrences speak to just how deeply Trump believed the military not to be an instrument of national power but an apparatus for personal use," wrote Johnson. "Milley composed his resignation draft after being asked to participate in Trump’s ego-stroke theater — first by conducting a military show of force against Americans upset about George Floyd’s killing days earlier and then being unwittingly drafted into Trump’s infamous march across Lafayette Square after it was forcibly cleared of protesters. Regarding the classified material squirreled away in Mar-a-Lago, the underlying explanation from Trump and his supporters appears to amount to little more than that it was his to do with as he pleased without any regard to the potential damage to our national security interests."

"These occurrences bring to the fore a troubling issue usually lurking in the background of civil-military relations: When a president believes his interests supersede the nation’s — or, worse, that his interests become the nation’s — the democratic principle of 'civilian control of the military' exposes the armed services to co-option as a partisan tool for domestic politics," wrote Johnson.

This comes after a number of other reports about Trump's desire to abuse military power, including a book by Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender that alleged Trump wanted the military to come in during the George Floyd protests at the White House and "crack skulls" to put it down.

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"Civil-military relations mostly held during the Trump presidency, a testament to the resilience of the institution and to our democracy. But dangers remain," concluded Johnson. "If our country’s toxic polarization, hyperpartisanship, and intentional stoking of social tensions for political ends are not sufficiently addressed, we may find ourselves dangerously close to the precipice once more—and if Trump or someone following the Trump model comes to power again, we may well tumble over the edge."

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