Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has suggested that he would fire top U.S. generals en masse if he assumed office, which would be an unprecedented move that may not be within the powers of commander-in-chief.
On Sept. 7, during NBC News’ “Commander in Chief Forum,” Trump blasted the current slate of U.S. generals as a national disgrace.
When interviewer Matt Lauer asked Trump about his previous declaration that he knew more about ISIS than the generals, the business mogul did not back away from the comment.
“I think under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, I think the generals have been reduced to rubble,” Trump said. “They have been reduced to a point where it’s embarrassing to our country.”
The GOP nominee added that he has “great faith in the military … But I have no faith in Hillary Clinton or the leadership.”
Trump’s implication that the current crop of U.S. generals had been hand-picked by President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who had served as Secretary of State, does not align with the reality of how generals are appointed.
U.S. military generals rise through the ranks gradually and are given promotions by their branch in the military, not by the president. The generals that have assumed their roles during the Obama administration were ultimately not put there by Obama, according to The Washington Post.
Furthermore, Clinton was in charge of the State Department, not the Pentagon, excluding her from having any role in who became a general in the U.S. military.
Later during the forum, Trump stated that he would convene a panel of generals to help formulate a plan to defeat ISIS and that “they’ll probably be different generals, to be honest with you.”
The current roster of Joint Chiefs of Staff all assumed their roles in the past two years. Traditionally, generals serve a total of four years in their positions, meaning that Trump would have to fire all of them within his first two years in office in order to replace them, Politico reports.
This would be a first in U.S. history and may stretch the powers of the presidency.
On Sept. 6, 88 retired U.S. generals and admirals signed a letter of endorsement for Trump’s campaign. The recent phenomena of former top service members taking a political stance has incensed many in the military, which has historically been bound by not offering any partisanship, The Daily Beast reports.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford has repeatedly urged all troops to not involve themselves in the 2016 presidential race. Service members without the clout of generals have been vocally frustrated with former top brass endorsing both Trump and Clinton.
One anonymous officer, whose former commander signed the Trump endorsement, stated, “They all need to shut up.”