McConnell expresses support for Esper amid tensions

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate Democrats say White House isn't budging in coronavirus relief stalemate MORE (R-Ky.) on Thursday threw his support behind Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Trump reportedly considering replacing Esper after election | FBI, Air Force investigating after helicopter shot at in Virginia | Watchdog says UK envoy made inappropriate comments on religion, race, sex Trump eyes replacing Esper after election: reports Overnight Defense: Esper confirms plans to drop below 5,000 troops in Afghanistan | State Department says it's cleared of wrongdoing in emergency arms sales before investigation's release 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 John TrumpNew Bob Woodward book will include details of 25 personal letters between Trump and Kim Jong Un On The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' Biden commemorates anniversary of Charlottesville 'Unite the Right' rally: 'We are in a battle for the soul of our nation' 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.