Milley earlier on Thursday called his appearance in a controversial White House photo-op a “mistake,” saying that his presence “created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”
Milley said during a pre-recorded speech released on Thursday that he regrets accompanying Trump on the walk from the White House to St. John’s Church, where he was photographed wearing his combat uniform and moving with the President’s entourage.
“As senior leaders, everything you do will be closely watched. And I am not immune,” Milley said in the speech to a group of graduates from the National Defense University. “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.”
The two had been summoned to the Oval Office in the preceding hours to update the President on efforts to use the military to tamp down on violence, and the official suggested neither man planned to join Trump as he walked across Lafayette Square to the church.
“As that meeting concluded, the President indicated an interest in viewing the troops that were outside, and the secretary and the chairman went with him to do so. That was the extent of what was taking place,” the official said.
CNN’s Phil Mattingly, Ryan Browne, Barbara Starr, Zachary Cohen, Manu Raju, Ted Barrett, Ali Zaslav, Sam Fossum, Kevin Liptak, Alex Marquardt, Evan Perez, David Shortell and Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.