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Defense Secretary Esper shocks White House by rebuffing military role in protests

Bloomberg reports:

President Donald Trump and other top aides were upset that Defense Secretary Mark Esper publicly opposed the deployment of active-duty forces to confront protesters in U.S. cities, as Trump has suggested, and viewed the Pentagon chief’s remarks as out of line.

Esper, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday, said the use of active-duty military forces to perform law enforcement responsibilities within the U.S. is “a matter of last resort” and that the National Guard is better-suited to the job. On Monday, Trump threatened to send U.S. military forces to cities and states that fail to quell violence spiraling from protests over the death of a black man in police custody.

“The National Guard is best suited for performing domestic support to civil authorities in these situations in support of local law enforcement,” Esper 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.”

The remarks generated pushback at the White House, where three Trump aides who asked not to be identified said the secretary should have moderated his comments to draw less of a distinction with the president. Two of the officials said there hasn’t been discussion of using the Insurrection Act in more than a day so any imminent move by Trump to invoke the 1807 law was unlikely. Nonetheless, the aides said they don’t expect Trump to seek Esper’s departure. [Continue reading…]

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