U.S. Attorney General William Barr debunked claims that President Donald Trump demanded 10,000 federal troops be deployed on the streets of Washington D.C. to quell protests that up to this week had sparked the worst outbreak of violence seen for decades in the nation’s capital.
“A senior administration official told our CBS’ David Martin, that in a meeting at the White House on Monday morning, the president demanded that 10,000 active duty troops be ordered into American streets. Is that accurate?” asked Margaret Brennan on CBS’ Face The Nation Sunday.
“No, that’s completely false,” Barr said plainly. “He did not demand that.”
Barr explained further, emphasizing that the use of federal troops on standby was a last resort:
I came over on Monday morning for a meeting. The night before had been the most violent, as one of the police officials told us, the D.C. police, it was the most violent day in Washington in 30 years, something that the media has not done a very good job of covering. And there had been a riot right along Lafayette Park. I was called over and asked if I would coordinate federal civil agencies and that the Defense Department would provide whatever support I needed or we needed to protect federal property at the White House, federal personnel. The decision was made to have at the ready and on hand in the vicinity some regular troops. But everyone agreed that the use of regular troops was a last resort and that as long as matters can be controlled with other resources, they should by. I felt, and the Secretary of Defense felt, we had adequate resources and wouldn’t need to use federal troops. But in case we did, we wanted them nearby.
The White House conversation came after violent rioters stirred chaos in the streets outside the executive mansion, even setting fire to the historic St. John’s Church Sunday night.
Historic St. John's Church, near the White House, is on fire.
The church was built in 1816. Starting with James Madison, every president has attended services at St. James. pic.twitter.com/3gCBGyyx51
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) June 1, 2020
Brennan then clarified that troops from the 82nd Airborne were put on standby following the riots, but were never officially deployed.
“Some 82nd Airborne military police were brought into the area, but they were not brought into D.C.” Barr said.
“What part of that conversation, as it’s been relayed to CBS and to other news organizations, is false? Did the president not demand active duty troops? Brennan pushed.
“Well your question to me just a moment ago was ‘Did he demand them on the streets, did he demand them in D.C.?’ No we had them on standby in case they were needed,” Barr said, adding that everyone in the White House discussion was in agreement on the issue. “I think our position was common, which was that they should only be deployed if, as a last resort and that we didn’t think we would need them. Every- I think everyone was on the same page.”
The interview then turned to whether Trump had legal authority to order troops restore law and order to the streets if need be.
“Do you think that the president has the authority to unilaterally send in active duty troops if the governors oppose it?” Brennan asked.
“Absolutely,” said Barr. “Under the Insurrection Act, the president can use regular troops to suppress rioting…The Confederacy in our country opposed the use of federal troops to restore order and suppress an insurrection. So the federal government sometimes doesn’t listen to governors in certain circumstances.”
CBS said it stands by its reporting over Barr’s firsthand testimony.