At the church, Trump posed with a Bible, in a move which has sparked debate around the world. General Mark Milley made the apology in a prerecorded video commencement to the National Defence University. General Milley said: “As senior leaders, everything you do will be closely watched. And I am not immune. As many of you saw, the result of the photograph of me at Lafayette Square last week. That sparked a national debate about the role of the military in civil society.
“I should not have been there.
“My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”
Attorney General William Barr and Defence Secretary Mark Esper were also among the group who walked to the church.
Trump’s actions have been criticised by those within his own party.
Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse released a statement in which he said there was “no right to riot, no right to destroy others’ property, and no right to throw rocks at police.
“But there is a fundamental—a Constitutional—right to protest, and I’m against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the Word of God as a political prop.”
Mr Esper has since distanced himself from what occurred: “I did know that following the president’s remarks on Monday evening that many of us were wanting to join President Trump and review the damage in Lafayette Park and at St. John’s Episcopal Church.
“What I was not aware of was exactly where we were going when we arrived at the church and what the plans were once we got there.”
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A predecessor of Mr Esper, Jim Mattis who left the cabinet after disagreements over Syria policy, wrote a statement later published in the Atlantic accusing Trump of dividing the US.
Mr Mattis explained: “When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution.
“Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.”
Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski told Washington Post that she thought Mr Mattis’ words “words were true and honest and necessary and overdue.”
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Ms Murkowski admitted she was unsure who to vote for in November.
She was one of a number of Republican Senators to reacted with dismay after a Trump wrote a tweet attacking a 75-year-old protestor in Buffalo, who was hospitalised after being shoved to the ground by police was an “ANTIFA provocateur” who may have been trying to “set up” law enforcement.
After examining a print out of the tweet, Ms Murkowski according to Politico responded by gasping and saying “oh lord, Ugh. Why would you fan the flames? That’s all I’m going to say.”
South Dakota Republican John Thune, the Senate Majority Whip said: “It’s a serious accusation, which should only be made with facts and evidence. And I haven’t seen any.
“Most of us up here would rather not be political commentators on the president’s tweets. That’s a daily exercise that is something you all have to cover… Saw the tweet. Saw the video. It’s a serious accusation.”
Utah Senator Mitt Romney said: “I saw the tweet.
“It was a shocking thing to say and I won’t dignify it with any further comment.”
Mr Romney was the Republican candidate in the 2012 Presidential election and he voted against Trump in his Senate impeachment trial.
He voted to convict Trump of abuse of power but voted to acquit him of obstruction of Congress.