Army secretary: No request for military intervention in election unrest

Greg Nash

The Army’s top civilian, Ryan McCarthy, on Tuesday said the National Guard has received no requests from federal agencies to potentially provide security or quell any unrest after the presidential election next month.

“There have been no requests from other agencies to support at this time, but we’re always available to support whether it’s [a metropolitan police department] or other federal agencies,” McCarthy told reporters at the Pentagon.

McCarthy also said he didn’t foresee the military playing a role in squashing possible post-election chaos and said the role of the Guard was only to help protect federal property and to support law enforcement.

“We support law enforcement, whether that is at the federal or state and local levels,” McCarthy said. “We don’t police American streets.”

The National Guard has, however, put a total of 600 military police units on standby in Alabama and Arizona to respond to any potential civil unrest if requested by a governor in another state.

McCarthy is the latest senior military official to attempt to dispel fears that the military will step in should the Nov. 3 election become disputed and turmoil ensues. 

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said earlier this week that he saw “no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election. Zero.”

“This isn’t the first time that someone has suggested that there might be a contested election,” Milley said in an interview with NPR that aired on Monday. “And if there is, it’ll be handled appropriately by the courts and by the U.S. Congress.”

But some fear the days and weeks after the election could prove to be chaotic as President Trump has continued to refuse to say he will accept the results or commit to a peaceful transition of power.

Trump has also cast doubt on the integrity of mail-in ballots despite no evidence of widespread fraud.

The president last month said he would accept the results of a “free and fair election” but has continued to rail against mail-in ballots, throwing doubts on whether he will consider the election “free and fair,” and whether he will step aside should he lose.

In addition, Trump has repeatedly used or threatened to use the military in domestic issues, including in the nationwide protests over racial injustice this summer after the death of George Floyd.

In June, Trump ordered the National Guard to back federal law enforcement agents in clearing protesters from Lafayette Square so he could pose for photos in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, which had been partially damaged by the protests.

Milley, who appeared alongside Trump in the walk to the church, later apologized and said he regretted participating in the photo opportunity.

The Pentagon has since launched an investigation into the National Guard’s role in the June protests, as military helicopters were also used to hover over protesters in a “show of force.”

McCarthy said the Army has completed its portion of the Defense Department Inspector General investigation and it’s currently with the DOD IG.

“It’s my understanding that it’s imminent and will be released when it’s completed,” McCarthy said Tuesday, though he declined to say whether it would be made public before the election.  

“That’s at their discretion,” he said of the inspector general’s office. 

Trump’s reelection campaign has also used Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Milley in a new online advertisement as recently as Monday, violating a standing Pentagon policy that prohibits military officers from participating in political activity while in uniform. 

Tags Donald Trump Election Mark Esper Mark Milley Military Ryan McCarthy

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