Top US military leaders condemn Capitol riot in rare joint message to personnel

Officials say president-elect Joe Biden will be their next commander-in-chief on January 20

epa08933854 National Guard soldiers stand post near the US Capitol in Washington, DC, USA, 12 January 2021. The House will vote tonight to invoke the 25th amendment forcing Vice President Mike Pence to meet with members of the cabinet about removing US President Donald J. Trump from office for incitement of insurrection following the attack on the US Capitol on 06 January as lawmakers worked to certify Joe Biden as the next President of the United States.  EPA/SHAWN THEW

The US military's Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a rare message to troops on Tuesday, saying the violent riots at the Capitol last week were an assault on the American constitutional process and the law.

The joint message broke nearly a week of silence by the military after the assault on the Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump, which left five people dead and sent members of Congress into hiding.

While some of Mr Trump's Cabinet members, including acting defence secretary Chris Miller, condemned the riot, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Mark Milley was silent until now.

"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," the seven generals and an admiral said in an internal memo to troops.

They said that the military was committed to protecting and defending the Constitution.

"The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection," they said.

The military leaders said that president-elect Joe Biden would be inaugurated on January 20 and become their commander-in-chief.

"Any act to disrupt the constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values and oath, it is against the law," they said.

US officials said Gen Milley had not commented on last week's events because he wanted to stay out of politics.

The silence was in sharp contrast to June, when he walked to a church with Mr Trump after law enforcement officers backed by National Guard troops used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear the area of peaceful protesters.

Some service members privately expressed concern that senior leaders did not provide direction after the attack on Wednesday.

There is also a renewed focus on far-right extremism in the US military after the Capitol attack, with a large proportion of service members being white and male.

The Army said it was working with the FBI to see if any of the rioters were current service members.

It was also collaborating with the Secret Service to see if any of the nearly 10,000 National Guard troops securing Mr Biden's inauguration would need more screening.

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