House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) and 30 fellow Democrats say they “insist” Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley appear before their committee to testify about the use of the U.S. military in quelling recent mass protests.
The committee says the Pentagon’s top officials do not plan to appear next week as Smith had requested.
"We requested Secretary Esper and Chairman Milley to come before our committee next week and offer public testimony answering these critical questions,” the Democrats said in a statement today. “We have been informed that they will not appear as requested. This is unacceptable. We insist that they appear before our committee.”
“Our military leaders are sworn to be accountable to the people of this country, and Congress is constitutionally responsible for oversight,” the statement adds. “They must appear and testify on these crucial matters in order to meet that responsibility."
Esper and Milley came under heavy criticism this week after accompanying President Trump to appear for a photo at a park across the street from the White House where peaceful protestors had been forcibly removed moments before.
Esper has said he did not know the photo op was going to take place.
Democrats this week also voiced concerns that Trump would send active military units to police protestors in Washington, but Esper has since sent those soldiers back to their home bases without ever deploying them.
The Democrats say the Pentagon should provide the committee with an “informal” briefing in the meantime, noting that one had been scheduled but was canceled.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.