President Donald Trump on Sunday said that he has ordered National Guard troops to begin withdrawing from Washington, D.C., stating that “everything is under perfect control” as anti-racism demonstrations continue worldwide.
“I have just given an order for our National Guard to start the process of withdrawing from Washington, D.C., now that everything is under perfect control,” the president tweeted. “They will be going home, but can quickly return, if needed. Far fewer protesters showed up last night than anticipated!”
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told reporters that the National Guard members would begin leaving the nation’s capital at 5 p.m. Sunday.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser had requested some National Guard forces to help manage a wave of protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month. But Trump ordered thousands more “heavily armed soldiers” and federal law enforcement agents to the city to quell civil unrest, such as vandalism and looting, that unfolded during the demonstrations.
“Those who threatened innocent life and property will be arrested, detained and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Trump said during a speech from the White House Rose Garden last week. “I want the organizers of this terror to be on notice that you will face severe criminal penalties and lengthy sentences in jail.”
He also threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act, an 1807 law that would allow the president to send U.S. armed forces into states for the purpose of domestic law enforcement, if mayors and governors didn’t do more to curb the unrest.
Trump reportedly told advisers during a “contentious” meeting on Monday that he wanted to deploy as many as 10,000 National Guard troops to D.C., Reuters reported. But Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and Attorney General William Barr reportedly pushed back.
Earlier this week, the Pentagon ordered the National Guardsmen deployed in D.C. not use any firearms or ammunition, and on Friday, Esper ordered the remainder of active duty troops moved to the Washington area to return to their home bases.
Trump’s threat to use military force against protesters has drawn condemnation from local and state officials, activists and former military officials.
Ret. Gen. James Mattis, who resigned as Trump’s secretary of defense last year, slammed the president’s rhetoric regarding the military as divisive and unconstitutional.
“I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled,” Mattis wrote in a statement published Wednesday in The Atlantic. He added: “We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.”