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Trump Threatens To Send U.S. Military To States To End Violent Protests


Last night, President Trump made a threat. He said if states don't figure out a way to stop unrest, he will send in the military.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled. If a city or 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.

KING: NPR's Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman has been looking into this. Good morning, Tom.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.

KING: The president sometimes just says stuff. But this is a serious thing that he said last night. Do we know if and when he might really do it?

BOWMAN: No, we don't. And, as you say, you know, he'll say all sorts of things. This appears to be more bluster on the part of the president, quite frankly, and trying to score political points. He's been very critical of the governors, especially democratic ones, saying they're weak, not doing enough to deal with the protests that have gone violent. But the governors are calling out their National Guard in large degree. Twenty-three states are using their Guard for a total of 17,000 Guard troops, and more may be called up to deal with any lawlessness. And the Guard troops are assisting local law enforcement in everything from transportation, logistics and in the more traditional law enforcement activities like partnering with police on patrols. But again, this is all at the state level with no federal involvement at this point.

KING: Right, which raises this really interesting question. Does President Trump actually have the authority to deploy troops other places?

BOWMAN: He does have that authority under the Insurrection Act from the early 1800s, which basically says a president can send in active-duty troops into a state if the laws are not being enforced, including the civil rights of residents. Now, Eisenhower did it in the 1950s in Arkansas to enforce school desegregation against the wishes of state officials. But the last time, Noel, the Insurrection Act was used was in 1992 during the Los Angeles riots that followed Rodney King's beating. But that was when Governor Pete Wilson requested federal troops from President George H.W. Bush.

So it almost always makes sense to have the support of local officials. And in Washington, D.C., the leaders there have requested more National Guard troops from out of state. And those Guard troops started coming in late last night. And there are some active-duty military police on standby now outside the city. But we're told by Pentagon officials they most likely will not be needed because of those additional Guard troops, as well as federal law enforcement officials.

KING: So those pictures we saw out of D.C. last night, those were all National Guard?

BOWMAN: Right, National Guard, D.C. National Guard, as well as, again, a lot of federal law enforcement personnel as well. Now, D.C. has called up its entire 1,200 National Guard contingent, which is, again, why officials say they need more Guard troops. And again, those additional Guard troops - hundreds of them - started coming in late last night from a number of states, including New York and New Jersey.

KING: NPR's Tom Bowman. Thanks, Tom.

BOWMAN: You're welcome, Noel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Bowman is a NPR National Desk reporter covering the Pentagon.