Aides to former President Trump last year reportedly drafted an order that would have allowed him to invoke the Insurrection Act amid the ongoing demonstrations and civil unrest after the police killing of George Floyd.
The New York Times reported Friday that according to two senior Trump administration officials, a group of White House staff members prepared the document on June 1, 2020, after Trump had expressed in a meeting with several top officials that he wished to deploy thousands of active-duty troops throughout Washington, D.C., to respond to the protests.
Trump expressed his interest in doing so to then-Attorney General William Barr, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, who all later talked the commander in chief out of the plan, according to the Times.
However, the sources told the Times that some Trump aides went ahead and prepared a draft order just in case Trump decided to go through with invoking the Insurrection Act of 1807, which allows the president to deploy U.S. military personnel and National Guard troops throughout the country to quell waves of civil disorder or insurrection.
The act has only been invoked twice in the past 40 years to respond to unrest following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, and in response to the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
One senior administration official told the Times that Trump was aware of the draft document, which was prepared the same day law enforcement agencies forcibly removed protesters from Lafayette Square shortly before Trump crossed the area for a photo-op with a Bible at a nearby church.
The officials also said that Trump continued to propose deploying military troops in the weeks that followed the June 1 demonstrations, including in cities like New York and Portland, Ore., were massive demonstrations against police brutality took place.
However, Trump in a statement to the Times denied that he wanted to deploy troops on U.S. citizens.
“It’s absolutely not true and if it was true, I would have done it,” Trump reportedly said.
Additionally, a Trump adviser reportedly told the Times that the former president rejected invoking the Insurrection Act when it was proposed by some aides, adding that if he had done so, Trump would have politically “owned the problem.”
The Hill has reached out to a Trump representative for comment.
Trump claimed exoneration in the forced clearing of protesters in Lafayette Square after the Department of Interior’s Office of the Inspector General said in a report that while there were failings in law enforcement’s responses to the demonstrations, Trump’s plans to visit the park did not influence officers’ decision to clear it.
A federal judge this week ruled that Barr, as well as current and former officials named in lawsuits regarding the clearing of Lafayette Square, are entitled to qualified immunity over their actions during the June 1, 2020, protests.
Via The Hill