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Transcript for Top US general apologizes for Trump photo-op

Good evening and it’s great to have you with us here on a Thursday night. We have several developing stories as we come on the air tonight. And we’re going to begin with America’s top general today apologizing for taking part in that walk with the president for his photo op in front of St. John’s church after that crowd of peaceful demonstrators was cleared for the president. You’ll remember the president faced backlash after police and the secret service forcibly moved those demonstrators. Well tonight, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff now saying he made a mistake, saying, quote, I should not have been there. And tonight, some senate Republicans defying the president over the idea of changing the names of military bases named for confederate leaders, suggesting it’s time. The president saying it won’t happen, that it’s part of a great American heritage. We begin tonight with our chief white house correspondent Jonathan Karl. Reporter: Today, president trump’s top military adviser, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, apologized for walking with the president and his top aides across Lafayette park to that photo op outside of St. John’s church. General Milley was right there, wearing his battle uniform. Just 30 minutes earlier, the space was forcibly cleared of peaceful protesters. I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic policy. As a commissioned, uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I learned from and I sincerely hope we all can learn from. Reporter: The extraordinary apology comes after some of the nation’s most respected retired military officers have condemned the episode, including former defense secretary-general Jim Mattis, who blasted moving those protesters to, quote, provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander in chief with military leadership standing alongside. Milley’s comments were part of a commencement address for the national defense university. He spoke forcefully about the right to protest as a bedrock American value. Few other nations have been able to change for the greater good and that is because of the rights and values imbedded in our constitution. The free Democrats guaranteed to us in the constitution allow people to demand change, just as the peaceful protesters are doing all across the country. Reporter: He urged the graduates to reflect on what they have witnessed over the past two and a half weeks. What it means to all of us as Americans and what it means to you and I as leaders. Reporter: His apology comes amid growing calls to rename U.S. Army bases named for confederate generals. The president tweeted they have become “Part of a great American heritage.” But today, the republican-led senate armed services committee defied the president, voting to require that the bases be renamed. Today, some Republican senators said the time has come. If you want to continue to name forts after soldiers, there have been a llt of great soldiers that have come along since the civil war. I think this is a step in the right direction. This is the right time for it. Reporter: Let’s get right to Jon Karl, live at the white house, because Jon, you’re learning tonight that general Milley considered resigning? Reporter: ABC news has learned that general Milley was so upset about his role in the events that happened that day over in Lafayette park that he thought about resigning. But ultimately decided that would be letting the troops down that were there and that the better course of action would be to apologize and to deliver the message that you heard him deliver to his fellow service members. David? Jon Karl leading us off tonight. Jon, thank you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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