President Donald Trump considered using ‘tanks’ or other armored military vehicles to help restore order in Washington after chaos erupted outside the White House on Monday night, defense officials have revealed.
As protests over the death of George Floyd enter their second week, Trump has threatened to deploy active duty military across the country to quell the unrest.
A senior White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, revealed on Tuesday that Trump hoped to make the aggressive action in Washington an example for the rest of the country.
Two Pentagon officials also told AP that the president had ordered military aircraft to fly above the capital on Monday night as a ‘show of force’ against demonstrators.
President Donald J. Trump returns after posing with a bible outside St. John’s Episcopal Church after delivering remarks in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington
Many of the protesters stood firm as the helicopters made several passes overhead
Videos posted to Twitter showed demonstrators quaking beneath deafening gusts
They did not say how many or what type of aircraft had been mobilized.
Videos and photographs posted on social media showed helicopters flying low over buildings and hovering just above groups who were on the street despite a district-wide curfew.
Law enforcement paired the tactic with heavy use of tear gas, pellets and chemical spray as protesters marched toward the White House well after the city’s 7pm curfew.
Trump’s tactics were decried on Tuesday by some fellow Republicans as well as his presumptive Democratic opponent.
Show-of-force missions are designed to intimidate and, in combat zones, warn opposing forces of potential military action if provoked.
Three senior defense officials told The Daily Beast that the idea of deploying military forces was being pushed by the White House, not the Pentagon.
Sources revealed Trump consulted with aides about using military vehicles or ‘the kind of hardware’ used by the armed forces, to help bring the chaos under control.
Hundreds of army soldiers armed with bayonets arrived at two military bases near Washington on Tuesday evening (pictured: 82nd Airborne Division soldier holding a bayonet in 2015)
One official said Trump did not specifically order ‘tanks’ to patrol the streets, but said he may have mentioned it in discussions because ‘I think that is just one of the military words he knows’.
It comes as 700 soldiers dressed in riot gear and armed with bayonets arrived at two military bases near Washington on Tuesday evening, while another 1,400 are preparing to mobilize, as the nation’s capital braces for another night of chaos.
Hundreds of members of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division were called earlier after Trump promised a more aggressive approach on the violence and riots unfolding across the country.
Defense officials told AP the US military and National Guard were operating under the mission name ‘Operation Themis’ – named after the titaness of divine law and order.
Moments after the historic Lafayette Park was cleared of protesters, Trump walked across to pose with a Bible in front of a church damaged by fire during protests the previous evening.
He hoped his personal walk to the church would send a message about how dominant force could restore law and order, sources said.
Police fired tear gas into protesters in front of St. John’s church to clear them out for the president’s photo-op
Protesters hold their hands up and try to steady themselves as a military helicopter flies low pushing a strong vertical down wash of air (rotor wash) onto the crowd
‘D.C. had no problems last night. Many arrests. Great job done by all. Overwhelming force. Domination,’ Trump tweeted Tuesday, after a night in which heavily armed military forces and federal officers swarmed the city.
Trump added: ‘(thank you President Trump!).’
The president had earlier threatened that if states do not take tough enough action, he will deploy active duty military.
‘SILENT MAJORITY!’ Trump tweeted Tuesday, embracing a phrase popularized by President Richard Nixon decades ago, in claiming broad support for his actions. Trump also emphasized the political importance of the moment to his supporters on Twitter and declared that ‘My Admin has done more for the Black Community than any President since Abraham Lincoln.’
The District of Columbia’s federal status gives the president outsized authority to act, allowing him to direct the deployment of the National Guard.
He authorized Attorney General William Barr to oversee a surge in the deployment of federal law enforcement officers, including the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team and agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sought to distance themselves from Monday night´s events after former military officials criticized their appearance with the president.
Senior defense officials told reporters the two were not aware that the Park Police and law enforcement had made a decision to clear the square or that Trump intended to visit the church.
They had been in Washington to coordinate with federal law enforcement officials but were diverted to the White House to brief Trump on military preparations, the officials said.
Former chairman of the joint chiefs Mike Mullen excoriates Donald Trump saying his orders cannot be trusted, warning president will ‘politicize’ the troops and saying: ‘Citizens are not the enemy’
BY Geoff Earle, Deputy U.s. Political Editor For Dailymail.com
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen broke his silence Tuesday to say he was ‘sickened’ by the use of U.S. National Guard forces to push protesters out of Lafayette park to make way for President Trump’s photo-op.
‘I am deeply worried that as they execute their orders, the members of our military will be co-opted for political purposes,’ Mullen warned.
‘I have to date been reticent to speak out on issues surrounding President Trump’s leadership, but we are at an inflection point, and the events of the past few weeks have made it impossible to remain silent,’ Milley wrote in the Atlantic.
President Donald Trump walks with US Attorney General William Barr (L), US Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper (C), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley (R), and others from the White House to visit St. John’s Church after the area was cleared of people protesting the death of George Floyd June 1, 2020, in Washington, DC
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Retired Admiral Mike Mullen warned of the military being ‘co-opted for political purposes’ Tuesday
Mullen termed Trump’s staged visit to fire-damaged St. John’s church Monday a ‘stunt’ that raised serious issues about the role of the military in U.S. society.
‘Whatever Trump’s goal in conducting his visit, he laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife, and risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces.’
He called attention to ‘institutional racism’ and ‘police brutality’ in the wake of the death of Geroge Floyd at the hands of police, while also condemning street violence.
His op-ed comes a day after Trump declared himself the ‘law and order president’ and said he would deploy ‘thousands and thousands’ of troops to American cities to restore order.
Trucks transport District of Columbia National Guard troops along West Executive Drive in support of law enforcement officers that are keeping demonstrators away from the White House June 01, 2020
Federal military police and park police forced protesters from Lafayette park outside the White House
Mullen said he didn’t have confidence in the orders Trump would give – and said it would be inappropriate to use the 1807 Insurrection Act as the basis for using U.S. troops to impose order on U.S. cities. Federal law generally prohibits the use of the military for domestic purposes.
‘I remain confident in the professionalism of our men and women in uniform,’ Mullen wrote.
‘They will serve with skill and with compassion. They will obey lawful orders. But I am less confident in the soundness of the orders they will be given by this commander in chief, and I am not convinced that the conditions on our streets, as bad as they are, have risen to the level that justifies a heavy reliance on military troops,’ he added.
‘Certainly, we have not crossed the threshold that would make it appropriate to invoke the provisions of the Insurrection Act.
The retired Navy admiral served under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama from 2007 through 2011.
Mullen’s successor as chair of the joint chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, also blasted Trump’s move.
Former Jt. Chiefs chair Gen. Martin Dempsey wrote that America was not a ‘battleground,’ after Defense Sec. Mark Esper spoke of dominating the ‘battle-space’ here
‘America’s military, our sons and daughters, will place themselves at risk to protect their fellow citizens. Their job is unimaginably hard overseas; harder at home. Respect them, for they respect you. America is not a battleground. Our fellow citizens are not the enemy,’ Dempsey wrote. ‘#BeBetter,’ he concluded, in what could be a take on first lady Melania Trump’s Be Best campaign.
The current chair of the joint chiefs, Gen. Mark Milley, was seen in battle fatigues accompanying Trump on his walk to St. John’s.
Just minutes after Mullen’s article was posted, the Washington Post reported on the use of military helicopters with red cross insignia being used to show force to protesters was being called a ‘foolish move’ by Geoffrey Corn, a former Army lawyer.