WASHINGTON -- The Joint Chiefs of Staff, the group of the most senior uniformed leaders at the Pentagon, issued a force-wide statement Tuesday condemning the riot at the Capitol as a "direct assault" on Congress and the constitutional process and affirming President-elect Joe Biden will become the nation's 46th commander in chief on Jan 20.
The memo represented a rare step for a U.S. military leadership that has sought to keep the American armed forces out of the nation's partisan politics in recent years. It came after a number of the rioters, who stormed the Capitol last week claiming last year's presidential election had been stolen from President Donald Trump, turned out to be veterans of the military.
"The violent riot in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021 was a direct assault on the U.S. Congress, the Capitol Building and our constitutional process," the top officers said. "We mourn the deaths of the two Capitol policemen and others connected to these unprecedented events."
The Joint Chiefs said that they witnessed actions inside the Capitol that were inconsistent with the rule of law and that the rights to freedom of speech and assembly "do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection."
The top uniformed officers broadly affirmed that the military would continue to obey lawful orders from civilian leadership and protect the U.S. Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic, while supporting civil authorities to protect lives and property and helping ensure public safety in accordance with the law.
"As service members, we must embody the values and ideals of the nation," the Joint Chiefs said. "We support and defend the Constitution. Any act to disrupt the constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath; it is against the law."
The top officers said that on Jan. 20, in accordance with the Constitution, confirmed by the states and courts and certified by Congress, Biden will be inaugurated and become commander in chief.
"To our men and women deployed and at home, safeguarding our country -- stay ready, keep your eyes on the horizon, and remain focused on the mission," the Joint Chiefs said. "We honor your continued service in defense of every American."