Warren asks Pentagon IG to probe military role in Trump’s protest response
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has called on the Pentagon’s internal watchdog to investigate any role the military has played in supporting law enforcement efforts responding to protests in Washington, D.C., and across the country.
In a letter to Sean O’Donnell, the Defense Department’s acting inspector general, Warren specifically cited efforts to disperse protesters on Monday outside the White House that preceded a photo op by President Trump in front of a church that was targeted by arsonists the night before.
Warren said she was requesting “an investigation of the involvement of civilian and military Department of Defense (DoD) personnel in suppressing peaceful domestic protests.”
“This ‘ambush’ of American citizens who were protesting the killing of [George] Floyd was created to allow the President to partake in a blatantly political photo opportunity that included DoD Secretary Mark T. Esper and General Mark A. Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Warren, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote.
I’ve asked the @DoD_IG to conduct an immediate investigation into the role of @DeptofDefense civilian and military officials at protests in Washington DC and other cities throughout the country. pic.twitter.com/iy9rYyNYVD
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) June 2, 2020
The letter comes a day after law enforcement fired tear gas and smoke bombs into a crowd of peaceful protesters outside the White House to clear the way for Trump to visit St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Military helicopters have also been spotted flying low above protesters in D.C. in an attempt to disperse demonstrators.
The protest Monday near the White House was just one of several demonstrations to take place condemning the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis last week.
“These attacks on peaceful American protesters steps away from the White House were sickening and appalling. And the potential role of DoD civilian and military leadership in ordering these attacks and then participating in [a] political propaganda event with the President raises profound and troubling questions,” Warren said.
The Massachusetts lawmaker asked that O’Donnell probe to what extent any Pentagon personnel were involved in suppressing the protest in D.C. and other areas, what training the personnel have to respond to protests and the specific roles Esper and Milley played in the response outside the White House.
Esper told NBC News in an interview that he was given no advance notice when Trump led him and other administration officials to St. John’s.
Trump has offered bellicose rhetoric toward the demonstrations, many of which have started peacefully during the day and devolved into violence at night. Trump has repeatedly declared himself the president of “law and order” and lambasted Democratic governors and local officials for what he says has been an insufficient response.
“NYC, CALL UP THE NATIONAL GUARD. The lowlifes and losers are ripping you apart. Act fast!” Trump tweeted Tuesday, referring to riots in New York City.
NYC, CALL UP THE NATIONAL GUARD. The lowlifes and losers are ripping you apart. Act fast! Don’t make the same horrible and deadly mistake you made with the Nursing Homes!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 2, 2020
Trump’s recent remarks and the events outside the White House on Monday sparked an avalanche of criticism from Democrats who said he was overstepping his bounds.
“The President of the United States tear-gassed peaceful protestors in order to clear the way for a useless photo-op outside the White House—just after vowing to activate the military against our own people. Lives and our democracy are in danger,” Warren tweeted Monday night.
The President of the United States tear-gassed peaceful protestors in order to clear the way for a useless photo-op outside the White House—just after vowing to activate the military against our own people.
Lives and our democracy are in danger.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) June 1, 2020