In a lengthy excerpt published at Vanity Fair from their new book, I Alone Can Fix It, co-authors Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker focus on their hours-long interview with twice-impeached former president Donald J. Trump at Mar-a-Lago, just 70 days after Joe Biden was sworn in as president.
“I think if I had it to do again, I would have brought in the military immediately,” Trump told the Washington Post reporters Leonnig and Rucker in a March interview.
After the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020, calls for racial justice and condemnation of police brutality quickly turned into peaceful protests in numerous cities across the country, including Los Angeles California, Portland, Oregon, Washington, DC., and New York City, just to name a few of the THOUSANDS of protests that erupted in all 50 states.
Floyd’s death came after the shootings of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery which were two other high-profile incidents in which Black people were killed by police, and follows a long history of police violence against Black people. Since Floyd’s death, thousands of people have been protesting in cities across the United States.
Many of the initially peaceful protests have been marred by violence, vandalism and looting, and authorities answered the protests against police violence with more police violence, using tear gas, rubber bullets, and other means as they confront protesters. Governors of over half of the states activated the National Guard to aid police.
On June 1, 2020, Trump threatened to deploy US troops if states did not call up the National Guard to deal with the civil unrest.
“If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,” he said in the Rose Garden.
Trump’s remarks appeared to indicate that he intended to invoke the Insurrection Act, a rarely used power that allows the president via an executive order to deploy active-duty military troops domestically to address unrest and enforce the law. The measure is widely viewed as a last resort to impose order when a state’s forces are insufficient or the unrest threatens the government itself.
The 213-year-old law, an exception to the Posse Comitatus Act barring federal troops from engaging in domestic law enforcement, was last invoked in response to the 1992 Los Angeles riots following the acquittal of four white police officers in the beating of Rodney King.
Trump attempted to put Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley in charge of a military response to the protests, however, Milley pushed back, which set off a profanity-filled shouting match in the Situation Room, according to the Wall Street Journal reporter Michael C. Bender’s new book, Frankly, We Did Win This Election.
“That’s how you’re supposed to handle these people,” Trump told his top law enforcement and military officials, according to Bender. “Crack their skulls!”
Trump also told his team that he wanted the military to go in and “beat the f**k out” of the civil rights protesters, Bender writes. “Just shoot them,” Trump said on multiple occasions inside the Oval Office, according to the excerpts.
Of course, Trump denied such an incident took place, telling Axios it was “fake news.”
When Milley and then-Attorney General William Barr would push back, Trump toned it down, but only slightly, Bender adds.
“Well, shoot them in the leg—or maybe the foot,” Trump said. “But be hard on them!”
Trump’s actions further divided the country and party lines. Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a Purple Heart recipient and a retired US Army helicopter pilot, described Trump as a “five-time draft dodging coward who is more interested in looking like a leader than actually being one.”
“We cannot allow any Commander in Chief to use our active-duty service members to silence our neighbors. To drive yet another wedge between Americans,” Duckworth said in a statement.
Mark Esper, then the secretary of defense, publicly announced that he did not support such a move.
The New Yorker reported Trump went “apes—” on Esper in response. Trump later fired his defense secretary after his defeat in the 2020 election.
Trump then told The New York Times, which reported that aides drafted a proclamation for such an order, that it was never his intention to invoke the Insurrection Act and send active-duty troops into American cities. The Times reported that he was talked out of his plan.
According to a report, 93% of the BLM protests were peaceful and only erupted into violence when the police used violence against the peaceful protestors.
While Trump claims he regrets NOT violating the rights of peaceful protesters across the United States, he didn’t seem to offer any regrets over his handling of the pandemic nor the actions of his supporters who mobbed the Capitol on January 6, 2021.