- President Donald Trump was reportedly involved in heated meeting with top officials Monday, when he demanded the deployment of 10,000 troops to Washington DC.
- The president wanted the military engaged in quelling the anti-racism demonstrations sweeping the capital after the death of George Floyd.
- Mark Esper, the defense secretary, and Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, as well as Attorney General Bill Barr, resisted the request, a senior official told ABC News.
- Critics say Trump is dangerously escalating the unrest in seeking to involve the military in quelling civilian protests.
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At a heated Oval Office meeting on Monday, President Donald Trump demanded that 10,000 soldiers be deployed to the streets of Washington DC to quell anti-racism protests, according to multiple reports.
However top Pentagon officials Mark Esper, the defense secretary, and Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Attorney General Bill Barr, all resisted the request, a top administration official told ABC News.
Milley was involved in a “shouting match” with the president over the request, a senior military official told the New Yorker, telling Trump, “I’m not doing that. That’s for law enforcement.” The president eventually backed down.
The White House disputed the account. Chief of staff Mark Meadows told the publication, “there was no shouting match, in terms of any directions or any operational decision that was made.”
In the end, 1,600 active-duty troops were deployed on standby in the US capital, and 5,100 National Guard troops mobilized to reinforce DC police, Parks Police, and the US Secret Service during the protests.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the reports.
Ahead of the meeting, protests against George Floyd’s death at the hands of police had reached the White House itself, with demonstrators clashing with police outside the executive residence that weekend and Trump sheltering in a top security bunker.
After the meeting, where he demanded troops on the streets, the president spoke with the governors of states where protests were taking place, urging them to “dominate” the protesters, and deploy the National Guard.
The president later gave a speech in the Rose Garden and walked to St. John’s Church near to the White House for a photo-op holding a copy of the Bible, after peaceful demonstrators had been cleared by police from the area using tear gas, rubber bullets, and batons.
Esper and Milley have faced criticism for joining the president on the walk to the church, where Milley was wearing combat fatigues in violation of longstanding rules against military officials donning their uniforms during political events.
The debate on how to respond to the protests has opened a rift between the Pentagon and White House.
On Wednesday, Esper reportedly provoked Trump’s fury, catching the president off guard in a press conference, saying that he did not agree with invoking the Insurrection Act to deploy the military during the unrest.