The Trump campaign is using an online ad that features the image of Trump, Pence, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and Joint Chiefs Chairman and most senior military advisor General Mark Milley.
The problem is that the photo was used without the permission or knowledge of General Milley, according to a defense official.
“As a matter of long-standing policy, military service members and federal employees acting in their official capacity may not engage in activities that associate the DOD with any partisan political campaign or elections, candidate, cause or issue,” the DOD’s website states in a post from March 2019.
Active-duty service members are prohibited from participating in political gatherings or fundraisers, and from wearing military uniforms at campaign events.
Jim Golby, a former Pentagon official who is now a senior fellow at the Clements Center at the University of Texas of Austin, called the ad “a disturbing violation of civil-military norms by the President’s campaign.”
“There is simply no reason for a sitting chairman of the Joint Chiefs to be included in an advertisement paid for by the campaign,” Golby said. “Milley should denounce his inclusion in the ad, but the president never should have put him in this situation.”
Spokespeople from the Pentagon and the Trump campaign did not respond for comment, but both Milley and Esper have separated themselves from Trump politics after they were used in a photo op earlier this summer when Trump held a bible in front of St. John’s church.
The ad appeared on the same day that Dr. Anthony Fauci criticized the Trump campaign for including him in an ad with a quote taken out of context.