In a clear break with President Donald Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters Wednesday that he does not support using the United States military to police the streets as protests and riots rage across the country following George Floyd’s death.
Esper announced that he opposes invoking the Insurrection Act, a law which would allow Trump to use active-duty military personnel as law enforcement, saying the act should only be used as “a last resort” and in the most “dire of situations.”
“We are not in one of those situations now,” the secretary said.
Esper’s remarks expanded on comments he made Tuesday night during an exclusive interview with NBC News, in which he insisted that “we have more than enough National Guard capacity out there.”
Some media sources are reporting that Esper’s comments were not received well by White House officials, including Axios’ Jonathan Swan and multiple reporters at CNN. But that reporting has not been confirmed by the White House.
Trump discussed the possibility of using the Insurrection Act during a Rose Garden address Monday.
“If a city or a state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,” Trump said at the time.
On Wednesday, Esper reiterated his suggestion that the National Guard, and not active-duty military, be deployed to manage the unrest.
“I’ve always believed and continue to believe that the National Guard is best suited for performing domestic support to civil authorities in these situations in support of local law enforcement,” Esper said.