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McConnell expresses support for Esper amid tensions

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGarland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks DOJ declined to take up Chao ethics probe Trump was unhinged and unchanged at CPAC MORE (R-Ky.) on Thursday threw his support behind Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperCORRECTED: Overnight Defense: COVID-19 stymies effort to study sexual assault at military academies | Biden, Saudi king speak ahead of Khashoggi report Female generals' promotions held back over fears of Trump's response: report Overnight Defense: Army details new hair and grooming standards | DC National Guard chief says Pentagon restricted his authority before riot | Colorado calls on Biden not to move Space Command MORE and Attorney General Bill Barr, who have come under criticism for their actions related to days of protests in Washington, D.C.

McConnell, in a string of tweets, praised the two Cabinet officials, saying Trump was "very well-served" by their "expert advice and principled leadership."

"I appreciate their dedicated work at this difficult time for our nation and their steadfast commitment to their constitutional duties to preserve peace and order, uphold liberty, and protect the American people so they can freely exercise their rights," he tweeted. 

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"I am glad President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee MORE has assembled such an impressive team that is working hard for all Americans," he added. 

McConnell's support for Esper, in particular, is notable because it comes after the Defense chief broke with Trump on whether or not he could invoke the Insurrection Act, which would allow the federal government to deploy activity troops in the United States. 

Esper appears to be in the dog house with Trump, as White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany gave a decidedly lukewarm statement of support in terms of the president's confidence in Esper on Wednesday. 

Earlier this week, Trump stood in the Rose Garden and threatened to invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act to deploy U.S. military troops around the country to quell rioting, looting, arson and violence that have spun off from mostly peaceful protests against police brutality.

"If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,” Trump said.  

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Esper, however, said during a news conference at the Pentagon that using active-duty military personnel in a law enforcement role should be done only as a “last resort” and that the current civil unrest, sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, did not constitute such a situation.

Sources told The Hill and other news outlets that his high-profile disagreement with the president Wednesday did not go over well with Trump’s inner circle. 

Esper has also come under criticism from Democrats for standing outside St. John's Episcopal Church while President Trump held a Bible. Protestors were forcibly cleared from Lafayette Square with reporters saying that tear gas and rubber bullets were used though Park Police has denied that tear gas was used. 

Barr has also come under criticism from Democrats amid reports that he ordered the protestors to be removed. Law enforcement officials told The Washington Post that Barr personally ordered for the perimeter near the White House to be extended, pushing protesters away from Lafayette Square.

It does not appear, however, that Barr is in any trouble with Trump.