Trump shifting after threat to deploy troops: report
President Trump is shifting after his threat to deploy U.S. troops in response to the protests over George Floyd’s death that are rocking the nation, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.
White House officials told the AP that the president is privately backing off on his warnings of deploying troops in response to the sometimes-violent demonstrations. The officials said law enforcement’s response to the protests this week showed local governments should be able to quell the demonstrations.
Current and former campaign and administration officials also told the news service that photos from the weekend showing fires set in Lafayette Square with the White House in the background angered the president, as did reports that he was in the White House bunker because of Friday’s protests.
A senior White House official said Trump wanted an aggressive response in Washington, D.C., to serve as an example for the rest of the country. Trump announced the plans to deploy the military in the capital city on Monday and threatened to send troops to other cities if the governors did not activate the National Guard.
The Defense Department has put together contingency plans for deploying the military if needed. Pentagon documents obtained by the AP described how soldiers from an Army division would protect the White House and other federal buildings if other law enforcement lost control of the protests.
The Pentagon said Tuesday night that it had moved active-duty units representing approximately 1,600 troops from Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Drum, N.Y., to station them outside the nation’s capital, putting them on heightened alert status.
A White House official told the AP that the federal government has given all states with protests a list of National Guard resources. The official also said if governors don’t make use of all of their tools to quell a protest, they shouldn’t expect a generous response when requesting federal funds for cleanup and recovery.
The Pentagon deferred to the White House for comment on the AP report. A White House spokesman said in a statement responding to the report that Trump is committed to taking “decisive action.”
“As President Trump has said, we cannot allow the voices of peaceful protestors to be drowned out by angry mobs, which is why the President will continue to take lawful, decisive action to stop the violence and restore the security of all Americans,” White House spokesman Judd Deere told The Hill.
After Trump’s Monday announcement, he visited the nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church after a crowd of protesters in Lafayette Square was dispersed at least 15 minutes before the 7 p.m. curfew.
The order to forcibly remove the protesters reportedly came from Attorney General William Barr. A person familiar with the matter told the AP that the decision for the removal was made earlier Monday, but Barr gave the verbal order when he arrived in the area.
Across the country, Tuesday’s protests were reportedly more peaceful than the ones that took place over the weekend, the AP noted.
Updated: 12:10 p.m.