Mark Esper: Defense chief breaks up with Trump over response to protests


“The ability to use active duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire situations. We are not in one of these situations currently. I do not support the invocation of the Insurrection Act, “he said during a briefing at the Pentagon.

Esper also tried to explain his use of the word “combat space” when he spoke of the suppression of violence on the streets amidst civil unrest.

“It’s something that we use day after day … it’s part of our military lexicon I grew up with … it’s not a people-centered phrase,” he said. “In retrospect, I would have used a different formulation. “

Esper also referred to the murder of Floyd, calling it a “horrible crime” and said that “racism is real in America, and we must all do our best to recognize it, confront it and eradicate it.”

“The murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer is a horrible crime. Officers on the scene that day should be held accountable for his murder. It’s a tragedy that we’ve seen repeated too many times. With much sympathy, I wish to extend my sincere condolences to the family and friends of George Floyd on my behalf and from the Department. Racism is real in America, and we must all do our best to recognize it, confront it and eradicate it, “he said. .

Defense officials told CNN this week that there was deep and growing unease among some at the Pentagon even before Trump announced Monday that he was ready to deploy the military to uphold order in the USA.

While tear gas was floating in the air in Lafayette Park across from the White House, Trump announced from the Rose Garden that if heads of state or city refused to “take the necessary steps to defend life and property of their residents, “he invoke the Insurrection Act, a law of 1807 that allows a president to deploy the US military to suppress civil unrest.

Esper and General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Staff, were confronted with a wave of questions following Trump’s comments, pressure that culminated in Esper’s appearance at the briefing room podium. of the Pentagon on Wednesday.

Milley did not appear with Esper at the Pentagon press conference on Wednesday.

When asked why he was not present, a defense official told CNN that it was because Milley thought it was up to political and civil control to explain the current situation.

Milley was in the White House on Monday in his battle battles and went to St. John’s Church with the entourage of President Trump, but did not participate in the actual photoshoot that occurred.

Later Monday evening, Milley walked the streets to check on the protests and security measures. The Military Times caught up with Milley who spoke of the right of people to “protest, but to demonstrate peacefully”.


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