Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley are refusing to testify to the House Armed Services Committee on how the military has responded to police brutality protests around the country, a House aide told the Hill.
“Staff was advised that [Department of Defense] leadership has refused to testify next week as requested,” the aide said. “In addition, an informal briefing with the secretary of the Army was cancelled for today.”
Protests and riots ignited last week after George Floyd, an unarmed black man, died in Minneapolis police custody. Then-officer Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes, will now face second-degree murder charges for the act.
On a Monday call with Trump and governors, Esper pushed for the state leaders to “dominate the battle space” of the protests.
In response to the unrest, President Donald Trump on Monday threatened to send active-duty troops to cities around the country to calm the turmoil. Protesters in Lafayette Park near the White House were moved from the streets to allow Trump to walk to the St. John's Episcopal Church, with Esper walking alongside him in combat fatigues.
A National Guard helicopter also flew low to the ground on Monday in Washington, D.C., to clear protesters. The technique is similar to the military's 'show-of-force' tactic for clearing insurgents in the middle east.
On Tuesday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., requested Esper and Milley testify before his panel to discuss the military's role in these events.
“The role of the U.S. military in domestic U.S. law enforcement is limited by law. It must not be used in violation of those limits and I see little evidence that President Trump understands this fundamental premise,” Smith wrote in a statement on Tuesday calling for Esper and Milley to testify. “I remain gravely concerned about President Trump’s seemingly autocratic rule and how it affects the judgment of our military leadership.”
Esper on Tuesday said he did not recommend the use of the Insurrection Act, which empowers the president to deploy the military and federalized National Guard troops to respond to riots on U.S. soil.
“The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations," Esper said during a Pentagon news conference. "We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act."
Roughly 1,600 active-duty service members were sent to the D.C. area this week in preparation of deployment into the protests. Esper sent some of those service members back home on Thursday and Friday.
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