President Trump ordered thousands of National Guard troops called up amid massive protests in the nation’s capital to begin withdrawing after a weekend of sizeable but largely peaceful marches against police brutality in the city.
Members of the administration on Sunday defended the president’s authority to call active-duty military to stand by in case they were needed to quell the unrest in the streets around the White House that raged for more than a week after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
“I have just given an order for our National Guard to start the process of withdrawing from Washington, D.C., now that everything is under perfect control. They will be going home, but can quickly return, if needed. Far fewer protesters showed up last night than anticipated!” Mr. Trump tweeted Sunday.
Democrats and even some of Mr. Trump’s Republican allies and other backers criticized the show of military force to confront domestic unrest.
District Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered Utah National Guard members out of a hotel near downtown last week. She claimed it was a budget issue. Miss Bowser made it clear that she did not want military-style police patrolling the streets.
“I have no ability to evict anybody from a private hotel,” the mayor told Fox News on Sunday. “We did insist that D.C. residents don’t pay the bills for troops we did not request.”
The use of the National Guard and active-duty military troops to calm the unrest sparked pushback within the Mr. Trump’s ranks, including from his Pentagon chief.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper broke with the commander-in-chief on the issue, saying the protests did not meet the heightened level to call for military intervention.
“The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now,” he told reporters last week.
About 1,600 active-duty military troops were sent to the nation’s capital last week after a church and other buildings near the White House were set ablaze. Monuments were also tagged with graffiti. The troops, though, were not deployed to confront citizens.
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf defended the administration’s moves, saying the unrest diminished after the increase in law enforcement presence.
“We took the right action,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” “We have seen governors deploy the National Guard.”
Attorney General William Barr said he thought members of the administration were on the same page that troops should be used as a last resort.
“They should only be deployed as a last resort and we didn’t think we would need them,” he said on “CBS News.”
The attorney general, though, said the president has the authority to send troops into states even if state leaders have not requested help.