Echoing Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-Wyoming) criticism of Donald Trump’s refusal to send in the military to put down the Capitol insurrection on January 6th, a group of retired generals and admirals accused him of “dereliction of duty” in an op-ed for the New York Times this week.

For three hours on January 6, 2021, Trump watched with glee as the insurrection unfolded. His supporters violently stormed the Capitol in a scheme to overturn the 2020 Election won by President Joe Biden and overthrow democracy by installing Trump as a dictator. Only when it became clear that his coup was failing did Trump finally allow the National Guard to intervene.

Trump’s refusal to protect the Capitol that day has been condemned by Cheney and will be laid out in further detail during an upcoming January 6th hearing.

Prior to that upcoming hearing, a group of former military leaders chimed in with their own condemnation of Trump’s inaction via an New York Times op-ed blasting him for “dereliction of duty” as commander-in-chief.

Admiral Steve Abbot, General Peter Chiarelli, General John Jumper, Admiral James Loy, Admiral John Nathman, Admiral William Owens, and General Johnnie Wilson began by blasting Trump for considering using the military to seize voting machines, an order that would have been illegal.

“In the weeks leading up to that terrible day, allies of Mr. Trump also urged him to hold on to power by unlawfully ordering the military to seize voting machines and supervise a do-over of the election. Such an illegal order would have imperiled a foundational precept of American democracy: civilian control of the military,” the group wrote. “Americans may take it for granted, but the strength of our democracy rests upon the stability of this arrangement, which requires both civilian and military leaders to have confidence that they have the same goal of supporting and defending the Constitution.”

The group then blew apart Republican claims that congressional Democrats could have called in military assistance.

“When a mob attacked the Capitol, the commander in chief failed to act to restore order and even encouraged the rioters,” they wrote. “As Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified to Congress, Vice President Mike Pence attempted to fill the void by calling on the National Guard to intervene. Given the urgent need to secure the Capitol, Mr. Pence’s request was reasonable. Yet the vice president has no role in the chain of command unless specifically acting under the president’s authority because of illness or incapacitation, and therefore cannot lawfully issue orders to the military. Members of Congress, who also pleaded for military assistance as the mob laid siege to the Capitol, are in the same category.”

Indeed, this means only Trump could give the order to deploy troops to the Capitol, and he refused to do so for three hours as his riled-up supporters searched for members of Congress to murder. The group concluded by circling back to civilian control of the military and buried Trump for endangering lives and democracy.

“The principle of civilian control of the military predates the founding of the Republic,” they wrote. “In 1775, George Washington was commissioned as the military commander of the Continental Army under the civilian command authority of the Second Continental Congress. The next year, among the grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence against King George III was his making ‘the military independent of and superior to the civil power.’ The president’s dereliction of duty on Jan. 6 tested the integrity of this historic principle as never before, endangering American lives and our democracy.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland is also committing dereliction of duty in his post by refusing to charge and prosecute Trump and members of his inner circle for the insurrection. If he won’t do it, he needs to resign immediately in favor of someone with a spine. There is no excuse for not going after the ringleaders of this coup attempt. Failure to do so only ensures that it will happen again.

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