Senators warn Pentagon brass against 'inappropriate' use of military

Source: Politico | June 3, 2020 | Connor O’Brien

“In short, we oppose in the strongest terms the use of the U.S. military to impede the First Amendment rights of Americans,” the senators wrote.

Nearly two-dozen Democratic senators Wednesday delivered a fresh warning to top Pentagon officials against using the military to intervene in protests following President Donald Trump’s threat to send active-duty troops to respond to the unrest.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, 21 senators warned that invoking the 1807 Insurrection Act to deploy federal troops inside the United States would militarize the response and “be a significant departure from important historical uses of the law.”

“In short, we oppose in the strongest terms the use of the U.S. military to impede the First Amendment rights of Americans,” the senators wrote. “In cases where there is a need for additional security, state and local law enforcement, with support from the state National Guard, who live with and within the communities they serve, under the control of each state, are fully capable of responding.”

The act was last invoked in 1992, when then-Governor Pete Wilson requested federal troops to assist during riots in Los Angeles.

Esper, in his first public comments since the start of the protests on Wednesday, also said he opposes sending active-duty troops, insisting they “should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire situations.”

“I don’t support invoking the Insurrection Act,” Esper told reporters at the Pentagon.

But the senators want answers to a series of questions about the military’s role in the crisis and demanded the Pentagon brass brief them by Friday afternoon.

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