The Military Speaks Out

Serving and Retired U.S. Military Leaders’ Views about the Trump Administration
Blog Post
Militarist /
Jan. 19, 2021

In the early days of his presidency, Donald Trump was enthusiastic about the current and former senior military officers in his administration. But as his time in office continued, relationships between President Trump and some of those officers soured. Some were fired or resigned from the administration, and other senior, retired officers increasingly have made public statements about the president's actions, statements, and policies. The volume of military leaders speaking out about the presidency is unprecedented, bringing into question norms of civil-military relations and longstanding efforts to maintain an apolitical military. This project tracks statements from current and retired military leaders at or above the 3-star rank, both critical and supportive of President Trump, over time and across issue categories.

The first statement we captured was on January 6, 2017, and the data was last updated on January 19, 2021. We have recorded a total of 309 individual statements and letter signatures from active and retired military leaders, 54 of which have been supportive of the Trump administration, and 255 that are critical, if sometimes obliquely when made by those in active service. Leadership is the most contentious issue among military leaders, with 54 statements and letter signatures supporting Trump's leadership, and 158 criticizing his ability to lead. The remaining statements and letter signatures are all critical, including 64 on civil rights issues and 33 on foreign policy. 

Leadership: Purple bars represent statements that broadly speak against President Trump’s leadership style. This category covers incidents related to Trump’s presidential campaign, his role as Commander in Chief, and leadership of the nation.

Civil Rights: Green bars represent statements about Trump’s handling of civil rights issues. This category spans racism, gender discrimination, immigration, and human rights.

Foreign Policy: Blue bars represent statements regarding Trump’s foreign policy decisions. This category covers policies regarding U.S. troops on the ground, military posturing, and border security.

Click here to see the full table.

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