In a January interview with Fortune magazine, retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Thomas Kolditz said supporters of President Donald Trump who thought the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol “was a good thing” need to be kicked out of the military.
“One of my bigger concerns is that there has long been a strong Trump following in the military,” Kolditz told Fortune. “People in the military have every right to be conservative or extremely conservative. But Trump’s supporters in the military who think that what happened [on Jan. 6] was a good thing need to be managed out of the military as soon as possible. That probably won’t happen until the Trump loyalists are out, but that needs to be done.”
Kolditz said rooting out “Trump loyalists” may entail pursuing thousands of service members and Department of Defense employees.
“We’re not talking about half a dozen people. We’re probably talking about thousands across the Department of Defense,” he said. “Many of them will have already run their mouth, put things on social media. But this was an insurgency, a crime against the state. And it’s a duty obligation of the defense leadership to make sure that there are no, essentially, sleeper cells, people in the military who, for whatever reason, think an insurgency is a good idea or justifiable.”
Kolditz’ comments were published on Jan. 8, just two days after demonstrators entered the Capitol building in Washington D.C. and clashed with police inside. The incident occurred as Trump called on supporters to join his protest to the 2020 election results. One police officer, Brian Sicknick, was killed after sustaining injuries during the clashes at the Capitol. Four more demonstrators died in connection with the incident, including Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt, who was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer.
Multiple active duty and retired military veterans were also identified at the Capitol during the Jan. 6 incident.
Following the incident at the Capitol, 25,000 National Guard troops were brought to D.C. to provide added security and support for President Joe Biden’s inauguration. During the massive Guard deployment, the Department of Defense worked with the FBI to vet all of the troops arriving in the city. While then-acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller said there was no intel indicating an insider threat to the inauguration among the ranks, 12 guardsmen were removed from the inauguration support mission after the vetting process identified questionable behavior.
The Biden administration has begun to address the issue of extremism within the military’s ranks. On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered a 60-day stand-down while the new Pentagon leadership is working to develop new training to address extremism in the ranks.
On Tuesday, Austin ordered the resignation of all board members on all 42 department advisory committees. The move came days after the Pentagon had announced it had halted processing several Trump appointees to the boards.
This article’s headline was updated to clarify that Kolditz was not referring to all Trump supporters.