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Pentagon-Trump Clash Breaks Open       06/04 06:16

   President Donald Trump's Pentagon chief shot down his idea of using troops 
to quell protests across the United States, then reversed course on pulling 
part of the 82nd Airborne Division off standby in an extraordinary clash 
between the U.S. military and its commander in chief.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump's Pentagon chief shot down his 
idea of using troops to quell protests across the United States, then reversed 
course on pulling part of the 82nd Airborne Division off standby in an 
extraordinary clash between the U.S. military and its commander in chief.

   Both Trump and Defense Secretary Mark Esper also drew stinging, rare public 
criticism from Trump's first defense secretary, Jim Mattis, in the most public 
pushback of Trump's presidency from the men he put at the helm of the world's 
most powerful military.

   Mattis' rebuke followed Trump's threats to use the military to "dominate" 
the streets where Americans are demonstrating following the death of George 
Floyd, a black man who died when a white police officer pressed his knee into 
his neck for several minutes. The president had urged governors to call out the 
National Guard to contain protests that turned violent and warned that he could 
send in active duty military forces if they did not.

   Esper angered Trump early Wednesday when he said he opposed using military 
troops for law enforcement, seemingly taking the teeth out of the president's 
threat to use the Insurrection Act. Esper said the 1807 law should be invoked 
in the United States "only in the most urgent and dire of situations." He 
added, "We are not in one of those situations now."

   After his subsequent visit to the White House, the Pentagon abruptly 
overturned an earlier decision to send a couple hundred active-duty soldiers 
home from the Washington, D.C., region, a public sign of the growing tensions 
with the White House amid mounting criticism that the Pentagon was being 
politicized in response to the protests.

   Former Secretary Mattis, a retired Marine general, lambasted both Trump and 
Esper in an essay in The Atlantic Wednesday for their consideration of using 
the active-duty military in law enforcement  and for the use of the National 
Guard in clearing out a largely peaceful protest near the White House on Monday 
evening.

   "We must reject any thinking of our cities as a 'battlespace' that our 
uniformed military is called upon to 'dominate,'" Mattis wrote, referencing 
quotes by Esper and Trump respectively. "Militarizing our response, as we 
witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict  a false conflict  
between the military and civilian society. "

   Trump responded on Twitter by calling Mattis "the world's most overrated 
General," adding: "I didn't like his ?leadership' style or much else about him, 
and many others agree, Glad he is gone!"

   Days ago, Esper had ordered about 1,300 Army personnel to military bases 
just outside the nation's capital as Trump weighed whether to invoke the 
Insurrection Act and send active-duty troops into the city, the scene of large 
protests that devolved into violence and looting over the weekend. But after a 
night of calm enforced by a large deployment of National Guard troops and 
heavily armed federal law enforcement agents, defense officials said the troops 
would begin returning to their home base.

   Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told The Associated Press that the decision was 
reversed after Esper's visit to the White House. The White House didn't respond 
to request for comment on whether Trump ordered the change.

   The shift added to confusion over the president's threat to invoke the 
Insurrection Act for protests following Floyd's death in Minneapolis. White 
House officials had indicated even before Esper's comments that Trump was 
backing away from invoking the act, though officials said Trump was upset that 
Esper's statement conveyed "weakness."

   Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president was still willing to 
deploy federal troops despite Esper's comments.

   "If needed, he will use it," she told reporters. "But at this time he's 
relying on surging the streets with National Guard. It's worked with great 
effect."

   Meanwhile, the president was taking credit for the deployment of federal and 
other law enforcement officers to the nation's capital, saying it offered a 
model to states on how to stop violence accompanying some protests nationwide.

   On Wednesday evening, troops and others were out in force in Washington. A 
Defense official said at least 2,200 National Guard members would be on the 
streets.

   Helmeted forces formed a ring around Lafayette Park across from the White 
House. Military vehicles were parked at intersections, also blocking access.

   Trump argued that the massive show of force was responsible for protests in 
Washington and other cities turning more calm in recent days and repeated his 
criticism of governors who have not deployed their National Guard to the 
fullest.

   "You have to have a dominant force," Trump told Fox News Radio on Wednesday. 
"We need law and order."

   Asked repeatedly if Trump still had confidence in his Pentagon chief, 
McEnany said, "As of right now, Secretary Esper is still Secretary Esper, and 
should the president lose faith we will all learn about that in the future."

   Esper, in his Pentagon remarks, also strongly criticized the actions of the 
Minneapolis police for the incident last week that ignited the protests. He 
called the death of Floyd "murder" and "a horrible crime."

   The defense secretary himself has come under fire from critics, including 
retired senior military officers, for having walked from the White House on 
Monday evening with Trump and others for a presidential photo opportunity in 
front of St. John's Episcopal Church, which had previously sustained damage 
from protesters.

   Esper said that while he was aware they were heading to St. John's, he did 
not know what would happen there.

   "I was not aware a photo op was happening," he said, adding that he also did 
not know that police had forcibly moved peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square 
to clear the way for Trump and his entourage.

   Mattis, in his essay, called the scene an "abuse of executive authority." 
The retired general quit the Trump administration in December 2018 after months 
of conflict with the president as Trump announced he was unilaterally 
withdrawing American troops from Syria.

   The White House laid responsibility for Monday's events in Lafayette Park on 
Attorney General William Barr, saying he gave the order for law enforcement to 
clear out the protest before Trump's walk to the church ahead of Washington's 7 
p.m. curfew. McEnany said the decision was made earlier Monday but had not been 
executed by the time Barr arrived in the park to survey the scene. He gave the 
order at that time.

   McEnany said law enforcement conducted the operation with appropriate force, 
which included pepper spray and other chemical agents, and officers on 
horseback and batons clearing a crowd made up almost entirely of peaceful 
protesters.

   Trump put a political spin on his criticism of states that have seen 
violence. He said: "You notice that all of these places that have problems, 
they're not run by Republicans. They're run by liberal Democrats."

   Though the crackdown on the Washington demonstrations was praised by some 
Trump supporters Tuesday, a handful of Republicans expressed concern that law 
enforcement officers risked violating the protesters' First Amendment rights.

   The situation in Washington had escalated Monday, becoming a potent symbol 
of Trump's policing tactics and a physical manifestation of the rhetorical 
culture war he has stoked since before he was elected.

   The clampdown followed a weekend of demonstrations outside the White House. 
Trump had been furious about images juxtaposing fires set in the park outside 
the executive mansion with a darkened White House in the background, according 
to current and former campaign and administration officials. He was also angry 
about the news coverage revealing he had gone to the secure White House bunker 
during Friday's protests.

   Trump on Wednesday acknowledged he visited the bunker Friday but claimed he 
was only conducting an inspection as protests raged outside the White House 
gates.

   Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division remain on standby at Joint Base 
Andrews in Maryland and Fort Belvoir in Virginia outside Washington.

 
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