Trump Defense Sec Slams Trump's Threat to Use Military Force Against Americans--and People Think They Know Why
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images
UPDATE June 3, 6:46pm: Since the original story was written, Secretary Mike Esper has backtracked and announced that he will not "return active-duty troops deployed near DC to home bases." The article has been updated.
On Monday, President Donald Trump threatened to use the United States military against citizens of the U.S. on U.S. soil.
Many asked if it was a possibility. A quick review of federal law drew attention to legislation from 1807.
The Insurrection Act of 1807 is:
"An Act authorizing the employment of the land and naval forces of the United States, in cases of insurrections"
"Be it enacted by... That in all cases of insurrection, or obstruction to the laws, either of the United States, or of any individual state or territory, where it is lawful for the President of the United States to call forth the militia for the purpose of suppressing such insurrection, or of causing the laws to be duly executed, it shall be lawful for him to employ, for the same purposes, such part of the land or naval force of the United States, as shall be judged necessary, having first observed all the pre-requisites of the law in that respect."
President Trump would not be the first to invoke the law. The last to use the Insurrection Act was the late President George H. W. Bush in 1992 in response to the riots in Los Angeles after the acquittal of four police officers in the beating of Black motorist Rodney King.
The ties to 1992's massive protests in Los Angeles illustrate that the divide between law enforcement and people of color has not improved.
However, President Trump is not seeing full support for his threat of military force to stop the countrywide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Shortly after the President made his declaration Monday, pushback from the Pentagon was rumored. Retired military members also reportedly bent the ear of the head of the Department of Defense.
Esper got read the riot act by every Ret. General between Monday night and Weds morning https://t.co/A61ymAmVuc
— Eric Boehlert (@EricBoehlert) June 3, 2020
America's military, our sons and daughters, will place themselves at risk to protect their fellow citizens. Their job is unimaginably hard overseas; harder at home. Respect them, for they respect you. America is not a battleground. Our fellow citizens are not the enemy. #BeBetter
— GEN(R) Martin E. Dempsey (@Martin_Dempsey) June 1, 2020
Former Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mullen (Retired) Sounds Off On Trump: 'I Cannot Remain Silent' https://t.co/cZdyVGVHpJ
— Victoria Young (@toriyoung22) June 3, 2020
Retired Air Force General & former CIA Director Michael Hayden has long been a critic of #EvilTrump. But now that Trump has committed the sin of ordering troops to tear gas peaceful protesters, Hayden isn't holding back in his criticism.https://t.co/HYx9r4aavf @PalmerReport
— American Liberal (@AmerLiberal) June 3, 2020
As the wife of a 30-year Army officer, step-mom to Army officers, and someone who has worked alongside the military in a combat zone, what I have heard from the President on the use of the military in our cities –– with the support of the SECDEF and the CJCS –– has pained me.
— Rep. Elissa Slotkin (@RepSlotkin) June 2, 2020
Then in a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday, Trump's Secretary of Defense Mark Esper—that same DoD head—said:
"The option to use active duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations."
"We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act."
"I've always believed and continue to believe, that the National Guard is best suited for performing domestic support to civil authorities in these situations, in support of local law enforcement."
You can see his remarks here:
NEW: Defense Sec. Esper: "I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act."
“The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most ... dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now." pic.twitter.com/GcMBjs73rI
— NBC News (@NBCNews) June 3, 2020
Esper was met with support from many on Capitol Hill.
Statement by @EsperDoD was not an off the cuff response to a question. It was a deliberate act by Sec Esper to oppose the desire of @realDonaldTrump to send in active duty military. Good that Esper understands rolling in tanks & bayonets against Americans is not the solution. https://t.co/OuR4LY7ZUE
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) June 3, 2020
I agree with Secretary Esper. At this time, there is absolutely no reason to use the Insurrection Act to deploy active-duty U.S. forces. That is a tool that should only be used as an absolute last resort. https://t.co/gYjNgGOSBY
— Rep. Bradley Byrne (@RepByrne) June 3, 2020
In addition to Republican Senators such as Majority Whip John Thune:
"I think that these tasks ought to be relegated as much as possible to the state and local authorities, the law enforcement and police. I know there are instances in the past where they've had to call up active-duty personnel, but I think the goal always is to de-escalate, not escalate. So my view is that's the right call."
One wonders if the fate that has befallen others who were not suitably loyal to Trump would be Esper's as well.
Until now, every general or government official that publicly disagrees with Trump has been retired. We need active officials to stand up for democracy, not retired officials. pic.twitter.com/QaoPpssZTp
— Matt (@mattbots) June 3, 2020
UPDATE: By Wednesday afternoon, Esper—who had agreed to return active duty personnel brought to Washington DC to their home bases—reversed his position. Some attributed it to pushback from the White House.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Esper has reversed decision to return active-duty troops deployed near DC to home bases, Army secretary tells AP.
— Jonathan Lemire (@JonLemire) June 3, 2020
Def. Sec. Esper reverses course, will keep troops near DC for protestshttps://t.co/GqZTkyeFxt
— 10F01C0 (@10F01C0) June 3, 2020
Sec. of Defense Mark Esper was cowed by Donald Trump yet again.
Being on Trump's bad side was obviously too much for the man. Being fired and losing the trappings of power and influence was a bit more than he can handle.
So now, active duty troops will stay in DC. Martial law. pic.twitter.com/ZawmhXUNPt
— Russell Drew (@RussOnPolitics) June 3, 2020
I guess widdle Donnie #Trump wants his toy soldiers and tanks back so he can play Army general. pic.twitter.com/Z1ZLLo8UK9
— Dread Pirate Roberts Mueller (@DreadMuller) June 3, 2020
While Esper has not issued a statement reversing his earlier comments about the Insurrection Act at the Pentagon, people wondered if the threat to his job means he will now support the use of active duty military in the United States under the command of the federal government.