Former U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis (L) is one of 10 former Pentagon heads who said in a letter Sunday that officials in the Department of Defense swore an oath not to a political party or individual but to the United States. File Photo by Ron Sachs/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 3 (UPI) -- All 10 living former Pentagon chiefs on Sunday declared the election over and warned the Trump administration's Defense Department that military intervention in its results would not only violate the Constitution but also could result in criminal prosecution.
"Efforts to involved the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory," the former defense secretaries said. "Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic."
The short letter was published in the The Washington Post and signed by Ashton Carter, Dick Cheney, William Cohen, Robert Gates, Chuck Hagel, Leon Panetta, William Perry, Donald Rumsfeld and former secretaries under President Donald Trump, James Mattis and Mark Esper.
It came as several GOP senators and House representatives, citing widely discredited claims of voter fraud, said they will object to this week's certification of Electoral College votes that say President-elect Joe Biden won November's presidential election.
Trump has yet to concede defeat to Biden and continues to spread the same false accusations. An audio of a phone call published Sunday by The Washington Post shows the president urging Georgia elections officials to "find" enough votes to ensure he wins the state.
The former defense secretaries said the time to question the results was over and now was the time for the counting of the Electoral College votes, stating that they all swore an oath not to an individual or party but to protect the United States from foreign and domestic enemies, and its elections and the peaceful transition of power "are hallmarks of our democracy."
"Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller and his subordinates -- political appointees, officers and civil servants -- are each bound by oath, law and precedent to facilitate the entry into office of the incoming administration and to do so wholeheartedly," the letter said. "They must also refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team."
Last week, Biden complained his transition team has been obstructed by political factors in the Defense Department, stating it could cause "a window of confusion" that could be exploited by adversaries.
Miller said his department's efforts to facilitate the transition "already surpass those of recent administrations with over three weeks to go."
The former defense secretaries in the letter said they call upon their successors "in the strongest terms" to follow through with the transition of the presidency from Trump to Biden.
"This final action is keeping with the highest traditions and professionalism of the U.S. armed forces and the history of democratic transition in our great country," they said.