Former President Donald Trump is perhaps the most stubborn American political figure of his time. As unflinching as he appeared to be during his presidency, it may come as a surprise that Trump had any regrets.
Still, a lengthy excerpt published by Vanity Fair from Carol Leonning and Philip Rucker’s new book “I Alone Can Fix It” proves that 45’s rare regret is a controversial one. Summer 2020 not only unleashed a deadly COVID-19 pandemic but saw the disturbing killing of George Floyd by former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. Floyd’s May 2020 death sparked protests across the country and over a dozen countries from individuals and organizations taking up the banner of the Black Lives Matter movement. While some demonstrations were peaceful, others were not and devolved into chaos.
Trump believes he didn’t respond appropriately to the outcry from protesters, telling Leonning and Rucker, “I think if I had it to do again, I would have brought in the military immediately.”
Although Trump never invoked the Insurrection Act, the threat was made. He pressured states to call on their National Guard personnel to deal with the looting and unrest. In a news conference in the Rose Garden on Monday, June 1, the then commander-in-chief expressed that he “strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient number that we dominate the streets.”
“Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled,” he added. “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.”
Trump did indeed deploy federalized National Guard troops to Washington, D.C., in June of last year as George Floyd protests began to roil the nation’s capital, just as his administration later sent federal police to cities like Portland, Oregon, in response to demonstrations, but he never called out full-time military personnel as has been done in instances like when President Dwight Eisenhower sent Army troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957 to enforce a federal school desegregation order the state’s governor balked at carrying out.
However, according to a statement from William Banks, a Syracuse University College of Law Board of Advisors Distinguished Professor, to USA Today earlier this year, Trump indeed had the authority to call in troops. However, the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which limits the federal government’s powers in the use of federal military personnel to enforce domestic policies within the United States, would also make the decision constitutionally questionable.
The last time the Insurrection Act was invoked was in 1992 by George H.W. Bush during the disorder in Los Angeles following the acquittal of four white police officers accused of assaulting Rodney King. The series of events, now known as the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, lasted from April 29 to May 2 and saw the destruction of businesses and properties and several dozen deaths.