Donald Trump was doing on Monday night what he does continuously. He created a needless bombastic statement that aimed not to engage in the heavy task of leading a nation that is crying out for answers but instead pulled a verbal grenade in trying to get ratings and offer PR gimmicks in place of serious policy responses.
So what is new? The gravity of what he threatened and the way it runs counter to the foundations of our nation.
Trump stated, “If the city or state refuses to take the actions that are 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.”
Today the fallout of that reckless comment can be seen nationwide. Retired senior military leaders condemned their successors in the Trump administration for ordering active-duty units on Monday to rout those peacefully protesting police violence near the White House. What was witnessed in our nation’s capital, all so Trump could have a PR moment holding a bible in front of a church, a simple act he was not even able to carry off, was both shocking and dismaying.
It was sickening to witness Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and General Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff standing alongside Trump as military helicopters flew low over the nation’s capital. Being a party to Trump’s desire to urge our national military into a domestic confrontation is so beyond the scope of acceptability it truly stuns the senses.
The blowback was fast and furious. General Dempsey, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote on Twitter that “America is not a battleground. Our fellow citizens are not the enemy.”
General Thomas, the former head of the Special Operations Command, tweeted: “The ‘battle space’ of America??? Not what America needs to hear … ever, unless we are invaded by an adversary or experience a constitutional failure … ie a Civil War.”
Today people are asking the question if Trump can send the U.S. military into a state, even when the governor of that state doesn’t ask for its assistance, or even if the governor actively opposes such a step? For instance, the governors of California, Illinois, and Michigan have all made it most clear they will not seek the involvement of federal troops in their state efforts to handle the protests and riots.
One of the founding principles of the Republic, something that Trump has very little if any knowledge about, is that the federal military should not be involved in domestic law enforcement. Granted, over time the law has carved out certain narrow exceptions to that rule, notably in the form of the Insurrection Act, from 1807. This law says that “whenever there is an insurrection in any state against its government, the President may, upon the request of its legislature or its governor,” call in the armed forces. That is rather cut and dried. A President can bring in the military only if a governor or a state requests it. None will be doing so at this time, nor should they.
But the other modification to the law from 1956 to assist in enforcing civil rights laws is the part the Trump thinks he can now use. This provision states that, when the President determines that there are unlawful activities which “make it impracticable to enforce the laws of the United States,” he may call in the armed forces. Last night I was reading views from law professors who question whether that provision, which was based on the protection of constitutional rights, would now give Trump the authority to create domestic discord by its use.
Donald Trump MUST NOT make such a reckless act, on top of his reckless statement. He must not send federal troops to a state that says stay the hell away. I often post about the autocratic nature of Trump and the undermining of liberal democracy. This is yet one more shining example of his abuse of power and his affection for authoritarianism.
It needs to be unscored that during the past three years American military officials have expressed concerns that Trump does not understand either his role as commander in chief or the role of the military that is sworn to protect the Constitution. Those concerns have again been brought to the top of the national discussion.
What a sad and pathetic man Trump proves to be, again and again.