Defense officials tell CNN there was deep and growing discomfort among some in the Pentagon even before President Donald Trump announced Monday that he is ready to deploy the military to enforce order inside the United States.
As tear gas wafted through the air in Lafayette Park across from the White House, Trump announced from the Rose Garden that if state or city leaders refuse “to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents,” he will invoke the Insurrection Act, an 1807 law that allows a president to deploy the US military to suppress civil disorder.
But some Pentagon officials are deeply wary, several defense officials tell CNN. They have tried to respond by making a strong case that the situation does not yet call for deploying active duty troops unless state governors make a clear argument such forces are needed.
“There is an intense desire for local law enforcement to be in charge,” a defense official said, alluding to the laws that forbid the military from performing law enforcement roles inside the United States.
There is also discomfort with the civil order mission among some National Guard troops – more of whom are now mobilized inside the US than at any previous time in history.
A military response
“I believe that we in America should not get used to or accept uniformed service members of any variety having to be put in a position where they are having to secure people inside the United States of America,” Army Maj. Gen. Thomas Carden, the Adjutant General of the Georgia National Guard, told reporters Sunday. He added that although “while we are glad to do it and honored to do it, this is a sign of the times that we need to do better as a country.”
Trump is threatening to use the Insurrection Act as US cities across the country struggle to deal with protests and, at times, looting and rioting that began last week after the killing of George Floyd, a black man who was being taken into custody by police in Minneapolis. The President, who faces a climbing death toll from the coronavirus pandemic and uncertain reelection prospects in November, is now emphasizing law, order and a military response against American citizens.