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William Cohen: Republican Senators Must Speak Out Against Trump

A.J. Higgins
Maine Public file
Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen (left) speaks with reporters about the Trump presidency at UMaine's Collins Center as former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Mark Grossman looks on.

Former Republican U.S. Sen. and Secretary of Defense William Cohen of Maine denounced President Donald Trump’s use of the military in Washington, D.C., earlier this week to clear the way for a photo-op, and said current Republican senators are derelict in their duty for not criticizing his leadership.

In and interview with CNN, Cohen said current Republican senators have a duty to speak out when President Trump abuses his powers, such as using federal troops to clear the way for his photo-op across the street from the White House.

“What I see taking place is the White House engaging in fairly menacing activity, leading us down a trail towards a dictatorship where it is only the law or rule, not the rule of law,” he said.

Cohen said the president’s use of federal troops is politicizing the military, and that is wrong. He said he found it offensive that Trump would use troops in that way, and said when he was nominated to be Secretary of Defense, he and President Bill Clinton had an agreement that Cohen would never be called on to politicize the military.

“I find it very offensive that he would use our military to fire rubber bullets or mace or other pepper spray into the eyes of innocent people in order to get a photo-op. That’s not a commander in chief, that’s a dictator in chief,” he said.

Cohen said he agreed with former Defense Secretary James Mattis in his strong rebuke of Trump’s leadership.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.