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Trump Threatens to Use Military to Stop Violence if States Can't Stop It

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Trump Threatens to Use Military to Stop Violence if States Can't Stop It

2020-06-02 17:40:46

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Donald Trump (Image source: Screenshot)

Donald Trump was absent and silent over the weekend as the protests over George Floyd's death escalated into violence, looting, and fires. He emerged on Monday after speaking with governors and voted to use the military to stop the violence if states were unable to stop it. 

None of the president's actions throughout his time in office have ever eased the divisiveness between racial and political lines. After a then-Minneapolis police officer knelt on George Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes, killing him, it led to a series of peaceful protests and chants of "black lives matter." Those protests have now evolved into violence, making the country more divisive than ever.

Instead of trying to bring the country together on Monday, Trump referred to himself as "your president of law and order" and the violent protests as "domestic acts of terror." He said law enforcement would "dominate the streets" to put an end to the violence. 

 "If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them," Trump said.

The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits using the military domestically for purposes of law enforcement without authorization from Congress, according to Professor Stephen Vladeck of the University of Texas Law School. Yet, the Insurrection Act allows for presidential authorization to use the military in this manner under certain circumstances. 

A Congressional Research Service report said the act has been used "on dozens of occasions" throughout history, though it's been "exceedingly rare." The last time it was used was during the Rodney King riots in California in 1992, though this was at the request of the state's governor at the time.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower invoked the Insurrection Act as well during the civil rights movement when he sent the Army into Little Rock to desegregate schools, according to Vladeck. The law allows the president to intervene if state authorities are unable to give residents the protection of law. 

It's interesting to note that during all the times it's been used in recent history, it's been because of racial unrest.

Trump declared himself on Monday an "ally of all peaceful protesters." This was said while a peaceful protest was taking place in front of the White House gates. However, police used rubber bullets, tear gas, and flash bangs to disperse the crowd so that the president could walk to nearby St. John's Episcopal Church with a bible in hand for a photo op. 

"We have the greatest country in the world," Trump said while in front of the church and holding the bible, surrounded by aides and advisers.

Before leaving the White House to make the walk to St. John's, Trump said, "My first and highest duty as president is to defend our great country and the American people." He added, "I swore an oath to uphold the laws of our nation, and that is exactly what I will do." 

He said he'd use his entire presidential prerogative, including the Insurrection Act, to ensure the violence ended, and vowed to deploy "thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers" to bring order to the United States.

He brought in George Floyd's name and the incident of his death and said along with many other Americans, he was "rightly sickened and revolted" by the video of the incident in Minneapolis. 

Trump's normal defenders — GOP lawmakers, Republican campaign donors, and conservative news outlets — have privately talked of how long he waited without addressing the country and asking for unity.

Congressional Republicans privately said his tweets about using harsh tactics, including violence, in this situation, was not helpful. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) said on Fox News on Sunday that he'd spoken to the president over the weekend about his tweets that he described as "not constructive." 

A senior White House aide said governors and mayors should be the ones to respond to the violence in their jurisdictions. Trump has implored local and state authorities to call out the National Guard and doesn't believe it's been done quickly or aggressively enough.

He told governors in a call on Monday morning that they bore the responsibility for resolving the crisis and noted some of them appeared "weak" in their state's responses. 

There was question among White House officials over the weekend whether a Trump address to the nation would help or harm the situation. It seems they decided it would help. Although it's very certain that it did not.

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