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Pentagon science adviser quits over security tactics for Trump church photos

By
Don Jacobson
President Donald Trump walks from the White House to St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., on Monday. At the church, Trump posed while holding a Bible. The security tactics used for Trump's walk to the church have generated much controversy. Photo by Shawn Thew/UPI
President Donald Trump walks from the White House to St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., on Monday. At the church, Trump posed while holding a Bible. The security tactics used for Trump's walk to the church have generated much controversy. Photo by Shawn Thew/UPI | License Photo

June 3 (UPI) -- A Pentagon adviser has quit in protest over Defense Secretary Mike Esper's involvement in a photo opportunity with President Donald Trump in front of a historic Washington, D.C., church, as well as the tactics used to clear a path to walk there from the White House.

James Miller, who served as undersecretary of defense for policy from 2012 to 2014, resigned from his position on the Pentagon's science board Tuesday in a letter published by The Washington Post.

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Miller cited Monday's photos at the historic St. John's Episcopal Church, which were preceded by federal law enforcement officers forcefully clearing peaceful protesters from the area so Trump could walk there. In the photos, Trump is holding a Bible.

Moments earlier, Trump had threatened to deploy active-duty U.S. military troops to states that failed to "solve" their violent demonstrations.

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Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser called the tactics "shameful" and the Rev. Mariann Budde, the district's Episcopal bishop, said she was "outraged" and was given no notice the church would be used "as a prop."

President Donald Trump walks from the White House to St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., on Monday. At the church, Trump posed while holding a Bible. The security tactics used for Trump's walk to the church have generated much controversy. Photo by Shawn Thew/UPI

In his resignation letter, Miller said Esper violated his oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution by "visibly supporting" Trump's photo plan.

"Law-abiding protesters just outside the White House were dispersed using tear gas and rubber bullets -- not for the sake of safety, but to clear a path for a presidential photo op" he said. "You (Esper) then accompanied President Trump in walking from the White House to St. John's Episcopal Church for that photo."

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Trump's actions, Miller said, "violated his oath to 'take care that the laws be faithfully executed,'" as well as the First Amendment right of the people to peaceably assemble.

"You may not have been able to stop President Trump from directing this appalling use of force, but you could have chosen to oppose it. Instead, you visibly supported it."

Esper told NBC News he didn't know beforehand that Trump would walk to the church. He said he thought they were going to view damage caused by violent protesters and speak with federal troops.

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CNN reported that U.S. Attorney General William Barr ordered the removal of protesters who'd gathered near the White House. Authorities had planned to secure a wide perimeter for the walk, but Barr gave the order for the demonstrators to be cleared when he saw the crowds, CNN's report said.

U.S. Park Police said their move to clear Lafayette Square, north of the White House, before the start a scheduled curfew on Monday was unrelated to Trump's visit to the church.

Some top Republican U.S. senators have supported Trump's move. A "sense of Congress" resolution condemning his actions failed to achieve unanimous consent after Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell objected because it didn't sufficiently condemn rioting.

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Demonstrators hold a sign in Los Angeles on June 14 for Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was shot by police in her home while she was sleeping. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

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