2020 Democrats challenge Trump's use of troops at Mexico border

A group of likely Democratic presidential candidates on Tuesday challenged the Trump administration over its deployment of 5,800 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border shortly before the midterm elections. 

In a letter to Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump learns to love acting officials Shanahan says he's 'never favored' Boeing as acting Defense chief Trump moves to install loyalists MORE, a group of 2020 Democratic hopefuls, including Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersGrassroots America shows the people support Donald Trump Five former Obama ambassadors back Buttigieg Both sides were wrong about Mueller report, and none of it will likely matter for 2020 MORE (I-Vt.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerButtigieg says he wouldn't be opposed to having Phish play at his inauguration Sanders announces first endorsements in South Carolina Buttigieg to fundraise in DC with major Obama, Clinton bundlers next month: report MORE (D-N.J.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisFive former Obama ambassadors back Buttigieg Harris: Integrity of US justice system 'took a real blow' with Barr's actions Sanders announces first endorsements in South Carolina MORE (D-Calif.), wrote they were “deeply disturbed by the overt politicization of the military.” 

They argued the deployment of troops along the border to intercept a caravan of migrants from Central America was not justified by national security concerns. They charged that it was really designed to bolster President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassroots America shows the people support Donald Trump Trump speaks to rebel Libyan general attacking Tripoli Dem lawmaker: Mueller report shows 'substantial body of evidence' on obstruction MORE’s campaign message on illegal immigration. 

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“The politically-motivated mission misuses active duty servicemembers and wastes Department of Defense (DOD) resources, both of which could compromise military readiness in the face of a true national security threat and heighten the risk of a confrontation between asylum-seekers and armed servicemembers,” they wrote.

The lawmakers called for a briefing and written justification from the U.S. Northern Command for the deployment of troops along the border and urged Mattis to otherwise “curb the unprecedented escalation of DOD involvement in immigration enforcement.” 

The senators criticized Northern Command for issuing what they called an “inflammatory” order days before the elections that “exaggerated the migrant threat.

The order warned the security of the nation was “imperiled by a drastic surge of illegal drugs [and] dangerous gang activity.”

The Democrats say the late-October order contradicted another intelligence assessment that predicted the number of migrants in the caravan was likely to decrease and found the group was not likely infiltrated by terrorists or criminal gangs. 

Senate Democrats say that active-duty troops didn’t need to be deployed to the border because National Guard units were already stationed in the area. They argued that the combined number of U.S. troops on the border was greater than the number of migrants expected to arrive. 

“Our concerns about this seemingly disproportionate military response to the migrant caravan are amplified by the obvious political agenda at play. Both the deployment timing and mission name reveal a blatant partisan ploy,” they wrote. 

Trump crisscrossed the country in the week before Election Day warning of the threat posed by the caravan as he bashed Democrats for being weak on border security.

The senators urged Mattis “to protect the apolitical, non-partisan nature of the U.S. Armed Forces” and gave him a deadline of Dec. 6 to provide a briefing justifying the deployment. 

The other signatories to Tuesday’s letter include Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandButtigieg says he wouldn't be opposed to having Phish play at his inauguration 2020 Dems call on Mueller to testify about redacted report 2020 Dems blast Barr's defense of Trump before Mueller report's release MORE (D-N.Y.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Budowsky: 2020 Dems should debate on Fox Overnight Health Care: How 2020 Dems want to overhaul health care | Brooklyn parents sue over measles vaccination mandate | Measles outbreak nears record MORE (D-Ohio) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates More than 30 Senate Dems ask Trump to reconsider Central American aid cuts Long-shot goal of nixing Electoral College picks up steam MORE (D-Ore.), who are also considering presidential bids in 2020. 

Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezWe can accelerate a cure for Alzheimer's The Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison Acting Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange MORE (D-N.J.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Senate Dem: Trump 'using immigrants as pawns' Bottom Line MORE (D-Md.) and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyBen & Jerry's backs Green New Deal: 'We have to act now' Warren praises Ocasio-Cortez in Time 100 The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Dems prep for Mueller report's release MORE (D-Mass.), members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money: Inside the Mueller report | Cain undeterred in push for Fed seat | Analysis finds modest boost to economy from new NAFTA | White House says deal will give auto sector B boost Government report says new NAFTA would have minimal impact on economy Hillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech MORE (D-Ore.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenTwo dozen Dem senators urge Trump to extend nuclear treaty with Russia Live coverage: Barr faces Senate panel as he prepares release of Mueller report US so far granted waivers to 6 percent of applicants on travel ban list: report MORE (D-Md.) also signed the letter. 

Booker and Merkley are also member of the Foreign Relations panel.