Trump was stopped from sending soldiers with ‘rifles and bayonets’ amid George Floyd protests, book claims

ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl’s book will be out on Tuesday

Sravasti Dasgupta
Tuesday 16 November 2021 14:12 GMT
In 2020, nationwide protests against the killing of George Floyd turned violent in some places with incidents of rioting and looting
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Donald Trump would have deployed active-duty troops to US cities to crush the 2020 protests against the killing of George Floyd if former defence secretary Mark Esper and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley had not stepped in, a new book has revealed.

On 1 June 2020, the former president had threatened to deploy US troops amid nationwide protests against police brutality, which saw incidents of violence, rioting and looting in some places.

“I am mobilising all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson, and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans,” Mr Trump had said.

Mr Miller and Mr Esper were seen walking with the then president to St John’s Church — located near the White House — that day, in a move that was seen as giving approval to Mr Trump’s threats.

ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl’s book Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show reveals that the two men had, in private, “argued with Trump earlier in the day, telling him it would be a mistake to invoke the Insurrection Act”, reported Business Insider. The book will be out on Tuesday.

“I think we would have had active-duty troops on the streets, you know, with rifles and bayonets,” Mr Esper told Mr Karl when he was being interviewed for the book after Mr Trump had left the White House.

He added that Trump wanted 10,000 active-duty troops in Washington DC before preparing to deploy them across the country to deal with the “violence and the protests”.

On 3 June, Mr Esper broke with Mr Trump and gave a public statement against the use of the US military to crush George Floyd protests, and the invocation of the Insurrection Act. The Act allows the president to deploy active troops under certain circumstances.

Mr Esper said the Act should only be used as a last resort in urgent and dire situations, adding that the US was “not in one of those situations now.”

According to the book, Mr Trump was livid with Mr Esper for expressing his opposition and reportedly lambasted him in a White House meeting. Mr Trump said that the president alone can decide on invoking the Act. Mr Esper hit back, clarifying that he hadn’t defied the president but had merely expressed his own opposition.

With his opposition to the president, Mr Esper was sending a “clear but unstated” message that he would resign rather than carry out that order, the book said.

The former defence secretary said his goal was “to prevent the use of the military against American citizens during ‘the days before, the day of, and the days after the election’,” Mr Karl wrote in the book.

Mr Milley, who was also present at the White House meeting, later apologised for his presence alongside Mr Trump outside St John’s Church.

The book also revealed that Mr Esper was fired just two days after Joe Biden’s election as president was announced, on the advice of ex-college football quarterback and White House personnel director John McEntee, who said that Mr Esper should be sacked for not supporting deploying troops on protesters.

Mr McEntee had been tasked with weeding out disloyal officials from the Trump administration.

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