Trump to create new military role
WASHINGTON (AP) — Campaigning in Iowa this year, Donald Trump said he was prevented during his presidency from using the military to quell violence in primarily Democratic cities and states.
Calling New York City and Chicago “crime dens,” the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination told his audience, “The next time, I’m not waiting. One of the things I did was let them run it and we’re going to show how bad a job they do,” he said. “Well, we did that. We don’t have to wait any longer.”
Trump has not spelled out precisely how he might use the military during a second term, although he and his advisers have suggested they would have wide latitude to call up units. While deploying the military regularly within the country’s borders would be a departure from tradition, the former president already has signaled an aggressive agenda if he wins, from mass deportations to travel bans imposed on certain Muslim-majority countries.
A law first crafted in the nation’s infancy would give Trump as commander in chief almost unfettered power to do so, military and legal experts said in a series of interviews.
The Insurrection Act allows presidents to call on reserve or active-duty military units to respond to unrest in the states, an authority that is not reviewable by the courts. One of its few guardrails merely requires the president to request that the participants disperse.
“The principal constraint on the president’s use of the Insurrection Act is basically political, that presidents don’t want to be the guy who sent tanks rolling down Main Street,” said Joseph Nunn, a national security expert with the Brennan Center for Justice. “There’s not much really in the law to stay the president’s hand.”
A spokesman for Trump’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment about what authority Trump might use to pursue his plans.
Congress passed the act in 1792, just four years after the Constitution was ratified. Nunn said it’s an amalgamation of different statutes enacted between then and the 1870s, a time when there was little in the way of local law enforcement.
“It is a law that in many ways was created for a country that doesn’t exist anymore,” he said.
It also is one of the most substantial exceptions to the Posse Comitatus Act, which generally prohibits using the military for law enforcement purposes.
Trump has spoken openly about his plans should he win the presidency, including using the military at the border and in cities struggling with violent crime. His plans also have included using the military against foreign drug cartels, a view echoed by other Republican primary candidates such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, the former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina governor.
The threats have raised questions about the meaning of military oaths, presidential power and who Trump could appoint to support his approach.
Trump already has suggested he might bring back retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served briefly as Trump’s national security adviser and twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during its Russian influence probe before being pardoned by Trump. Flynn suggested in the aftermath of the 2020 election that Trump could seize voting machines and order the military in some states to help rerun the election.
Attempts to invoke the Insurrection Act and use the military for domestic policing would likely elicit pushback from the Pentagon, where the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is Gen. Charles Q. Brown. He was one of the eight members of the Joint Chiefs who signed a memo to military personnel in the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. The memo emphasized the oaths they took and called the events of that day, which were intended to stop certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory over Trump, “sedition and insurrection.”
Trump and his party nevertheless retain wide support among those who have served in the military.