Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday that active-duty U.S. military forces should only be deployed in a domestic law enforcement role "as a matter of last resort" and "in the most urgent dire of situations." In his view, the protests against brutality taking place across the country do not meet that criteria. "We are not in one of those situations right now," Esper said.
Therefore, he does not support invoking the Insurrection Act — which allows the president to deploy troops to suppress civil disorder — despite President Trump's threats to do so. Esper said he has always believed the National Guard, which has been supplementing local police in some states, "is best suited for providing domestic support to civil authorities in these situations."
Politico previously reported Pentagon officials were uneasy about the possibility the military could play a role in quelling the protests, and Esper seems to be distancing himself from Trump's rhetoric since he came under fire for walking with the president through Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., after federal police forcibly cleared peaceful protesters from the area. Esper claims he wasn't aware of plans to clear the park.