Attorney General William Barr says President Donald Trump never demanded that 10,000 active-duty troops be ordered to help crack down on protests in D.C. and across the country.
“The president never asked or suggested that we needed to deploy regular troops at that point,” Barr said in an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “It’s been done from time to time in our history. We try to avoid it, and I’m happy that we were able to avoid it on this occasion.”
Barr did note, however, that some members of the 82nd Airborne Division military police were brought into the area and were on standby “in case they were needed,” rather than actually deployed to the streets of Washington.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley opposed the use of active-duty troops to help manage the protests. Former government officials and military leaders have also opposed it. “I would absolutely advise against it, particularly at this time,” former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Barr said the administration did not overstep.
“I think our position was common, which was that they should only be deployed as a last resort and that we didn’t think we would need them,” Barr said. “I think everyone was on the same page.”
There have also been questions as to whether a presidential order to send in active-duty troops would even be legal.
When asked if he thought the president has authority to send in active-duty troops amid opposition from governors, Barr noted that “under the Insurrection Act, the president can use regular troops to suppress rioting.” The Insurrection Act, which dates to 1807 and the presidency of Thomas Jefferson, was last used by President George H.W. Bush in 1992.
Earlier Sunday morning, Trump tweeted that the National Guard would begin withdrawing from D.C.
“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,” Trump wrote. “They will be going home, but can quickly return, if needed. Far fewer protesters showed up last night than anticipated!”