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 MattisIs coronavirus the final Trump crisis? Pentagon seeks to reconsider parts of B cloud contract given to Microsoft over Amazon Democrats press FEC pick to recuse himself from Trump matters MORE, a group of 2020 Democratic hopefuls, including Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSome Sanders top allies have urged him to withdraw from 2020 race: report We're at war and need wartime institutions to keep our economy producing what's necessary Larry David: Bernie Sanders should drop out of 2020 race MORE (I-Vt.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerEnlisting tech to fight coronavirus sparks surveillance fears Democrats urge administration to automatically issue coronavirus checks to more people Democrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus MORE (D-N.J.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisEnlisting tech to fight coronavirus sparks surveillance fears Biden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats Is Texas learning to love ObamaCare? 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 TrumpPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor NBA to contribute 1 million surgical masks to NY essential workers Private equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report 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 GillibrandThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden struggles to stay in the spotlight Biden fights for attention in coronavirus news cycle Lawmakers already planning more coronavirus stimulus after T package MORE (D-N.Y.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownDemocrats urge administration to automatically issue coronavirus checks to more people Lawmakers press IRS to get coronavirus checks to seniors Democrats press Mnuchin to defend T coronavirus stimulus IG MORE (D-Ohio) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Energy: Oil giants meet with Trump at White House | Interior extends tenure of controversial land management chief | Oil prices tick up on hopes of Russia-Saudi deal Oil giants meet at White House amid talk of buying strategic reserves Democrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus MORE (D-Ore.), who are also considering presidential bids in 2020. 

Sens. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezHillicon Valley: Facebook launches portal for coronavirus information | EU sees spike in Russian misinformation on outbreak | Senate Dem bill would encourage mail-in voting | Lawmakers question safety of Google virus website Democratic senators press Google over privacy of coronavirus screening site Menendez calls for 'Marie Yovanovitch bill' to protect foreign service employees MORE (D-N.J.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinDemocratic senator asks Pompeo to stop saying 'Wuhan virus' Small-business rescue package expected to swell to 0 billion or more McConnell sets Friday night deadline for bipartisan deal on stimulus MORE (D-Md.) and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyOvernight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill Democratic senators want probe into change of national stockpile description Overnight Energy: Oil giants meet with Trump at White House | Interior extends tenure of controversial land management chief | Oil prices tick up on hopes of Russia-Saudi deal MORE (D-Mass.), members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus Democrats say more unemployment benefits needed in wake of record unemployment claims Democrats fear coronavirus impact on November turnout MORE (D-Ore.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenPentagon gets heat over protecting service members from coronavirus Overnight Defense: Lawmakers call for probe into aircraft carrier captain's firing | Sailors cheer ousted commander | Hospital ship to ease screening process for patients Lawmakers call for investigation into aircraft carrier captain's firing MORE (D-Md.) also signed the letter. 

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