As Cities Burn, Will Trump Invoke The Insurrection Act? Should He?
President Donald Trump has increasingly implored mayors and governors in the cities and states wracked by violence to do their jobs and keep the peace. Whether due to lack of will, to underestimating the coming night’s violence, or to an outright sympathy with the looters — erroneously conflating the legitimate grievances of the protesters with the actions of seditious revolutionaries, nihilists, and crooks — the destruction and loss of life has continued and escalated. As a result, the president strongly suggested he would take charge and send in the military himself.
That the president hinted at the use of federal troops under the Insurrection Act set off a chorus of howls. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from hard-hit New York, called it “blatantly unconstitutional.” Retired senior officers expressed alarm at the potential use of troops, with two former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen and Martin Dempsey, both outspoken in their criticism.
But do they have a valid complaint? Is the president inappropriately “mobilizing all available federal resources — civilian and military — to stop the rioting and looting,” as Trump said on June 1?
The answer is, “it depends.” The president has the authority to restore order. In the words of the Constitution, Article II, Section 2, “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.”
But there are complications. In the case of civil unrest, the uncertainty rests on the issue of whether states want federal assistance.
The Insurrection Act and the L.A. Riots
I experienced this firsthand in 1992 when, as a captain in the California Army National Guard, I was called up by the governor, and
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