America’s top military leaders have taken the unprecedented step of condemning last week’s violent US Capitol siege and reminding US troops their job is to serve and protect the constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic”.
The joint statement comes amid investigations into former and current military service members and law enforcement officers who are suspected of having participated in the protest and the ensuing riot by supporters of President Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, a vote in the House of Representatives spearheaded by the Democrats to impeach Mr Trump will take place on Wednesday, with several members of the Republican party saying they will back a charge of “incitement of insurrection”.
“The violent riot in Washington DC on January 6, 2021 was a direct assault on the US Congress, the Capitol building, and our constitutional process,” said the statement, signed by the eight members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including the country’s most senior general, Mark Milley.
“We witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law. The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection.
“Any act to disrupt the constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath; it is against the law.”
“Stay ready, keep your eyes on the horizon, and remain focused on the mission,” the statement from the top military brass added.
Last Wednesday’s uprising, which took place as politicians were counting Electoral College votes to confirm Joe Biden’s election victory, ended in the deaths of five people.
Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt, 35, was shot and killed by Capitol police as she and other protesters stormed the Capitol building to disrupt the proceedings.
The US Army is working with the FBI to investigate if any rioters were current service members, and with the Secret Service to see if any of the nearly 10,000 National Guard troops securing Mr Biden’s inauguration on 20 January would need additional screening.
It is also investigating 30-year-old Captain Emily Rainey, a psychological operations officer, who led 100 Trump supporters from North Carolina to the rally in Washington to “stand against election fraud” and told the Associated Press: “I was a private citizen and doing everything right and within my rights.”
The FBI arrested Larry Rendell Brock, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel in Texas on Sunday, after he breached the Senate chamber wearing tactical gear and carrying zip-tie handcuffs known as flex cuffs.
There are calls for Doug Mastriano, a Pennsylvania state legislator, to resign after he and his wife attended Wednesday’s event.
He has said he did not enter the Capitol or go beyond police lines, adding that he did not support the violence: “When it was apparent that this was no longer a peaceful protest, my wife and I left the area.”
The Department of Justice is reportedly investigating 25 members of the service, though it is unclear whether they are retired or active in the military ranks.
While a number of Mr Trump’s cabinet including acting Defence Secretary Chris Miller have condemned the storming, General Milley has remained silent until now.
US officials said he had not commented on the events because he wanted to stay out of politics.
His actions are in sharp contrast to June, when he joined Mr Trump on his controversial walk from the White House to a church where the president staged a photo op holding a Bible after police officers used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear the area of Black Lives Matter protesters.