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Can Trump call in troops to quell Election Day unrest?

12 Comments
By Jan Wolfe

U.S. President Donald Trump has declined to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he decides the Nov 3 presidential election results are fraudulent and has proposed mobilizing troops under the 200-year-old Insurrection Act to put down unrest if he won.

"Look, it’s called insurrection. We just send them in and we do it very easy," Trump told Fox News in September.

WHAT IS THE INSURRECTION ACT?

Under the U.S. Constitution, governors of U.S. states have primary authority to maintain order within state borders. The 1878 Posse Comitatus Act bars the federal military from participating in domestic law enforcement.

The Insurrection Act, an exception to the Posse Comitatus Act dating back to 1807, permits the president to send in U.S. forces to suppress a domestic insurrection.

The Insurrection Act has been invoked dozens of times in U.S. history, but rarely since the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

It was last invoked in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush when the acquittal of four Los Angeles police officers in the beating of Black motorist Rodney King led to deadly riots. California's governor supported Bush's use of the law.

The act gives a president "awesome powers" and should be used as a last resort, said retired Army Major General John Altenburg, now a Washington lawyer.

DID TRUMP INVOKE THE ACT IN RESPONSE TO THIS YEAR'S ANTI-RACISM PROTESTS?

Trump considered invoking the act in response to violence and looting at mostly peaceful anti-racism protests in June. Trump dropped the idea after public pushback from Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

Instead, Trump sent U.S. Department of Homeland Security agents to cities like Washington, D.C., and Portland, Oregon.

These agents had military-style equipment, but they were civilians and not members of the armed forces.

In the event of unrest on Nov 3 or in the ensuing days, Trump is more likely to activate these federal agents than the military, said Jimmy Gurulé, a University of Notre Dame law professor and former Justice Department official.

To do so, Trump would need to cite some violation of federal law that the agents are policing against. The DHS agents sent to Portland earlier this year were tasked with enforcing a law against vandalizing federal property like courthouses.

CAN TRUMP ACTIVATE THE NATIONAL GUARD?

Yes, the U.S. government could activate, or "federalize," the Army National Guard, a reserve force of part-time soldiers. These civilian soldiers are usually activated by governors, but federal law also allows the U.S. government to mobilize them.

Once federalized, National Guard soldiers are under the full command and control of the defense secretary until they are returned to state status.

This year, many state governors have activated the National Guard to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and support local enforcement in quelling disturbances.

SO TRUMP NEED NOT HAVE A GOVERNOR’S APPROVAL FOR SENDING IN TROOPS?

Right. Under the Insurrection Act, if a president determines that a rebellion has made it "impracticable" to enforce U.S. law through ordinary judicial proceedings, he may activate the armed forces without a governor's approval "to enforce those laws or to suppress the rebellion."

Historically, presidents and governors have generally agreed on the need for troops.

Trump can activate DHS agents, who are federal government employees, or the National Guard, without state approval.

However, there are limits on the president's power. Federal law makes it illegal for the military or other federal agents to interfere with an election. Deploying the military or DHS to polling places is illegal, for example.

CAN A COURT BLOCK A PRESIDENT'S USE OF FORCE?

Yes, but courts have historically been reluctant to second-guess a president’s military declarations, said Robert Chesney, a law professor at the University of Texas.

"When a president claims that the facts on the ground warrant invocation of the Insurrection Act, courts ordinarily would not second-guess this," Chesney said. Judges, however, could break with precedent if they believed Trump had relied on false claims to justify the use of force, he said.

If Trump sends in DHS or other federal agents, they must respect the constitutional rights of civilians. Advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union accused the agents in Portland of making arrests that violated the constitutional rights of protesters and journalists.

But the Trump administration had the lawful authority to use the agents, legal experts said.

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

12 Comments
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If the Democrats come up with another 10 million fraudulent mail-in votes and steal the election, Trump is supposed to concede, according to the Democrats. That would be a betrayal of his duty to uphold the Constitution. He won't do that.

And yes, he can and should call in the troops if necessary to put down out of control unrest if his election win is found to be legit.

-12 ( +2 / -14 )

@Serrano

"another 10 million fraudulent mail-in votes"

Cite some sources, please.

"if his election win is found to be legit."

Mighty big "if". Trump screaming at the top of his lungs that he won doesn't make it a win.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

The only Election Day unrest, if any, will be from White Supremacists.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

If the Democrats come up with another 10 million fraudulent mail-in votes and steal the election, Trump is supposed to concede,

Your willingness to believe (or just accept for convenience's sake) a bizarre conspiracy theory about voter fraud is very revealing.

The democratic process can be disposed of without evidence because the man you favour wished to remain in power and move from elected official to tyrant.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

If the Democrats come up with another 10 million fraudulent mail-in votes and steal the election, Trump is supposed to concede, according to the Democrats. That would be a betrayal of his duty to uphold the Constitution. He won't do that.

You just parrot Trump and his paranoid self-serving blatherings born from fear of losing the election, and you do it with the hypocrisy of saying it's all in support of the Constitution. Put up one shred of real evidence (not a regurgitation of your Leader's paranoia) to support your claim of millions of fraudulent votes, and declare straight out whether you personally as a Trump supporter will accept the wishes of the majority of your fellow citizens next Tuesday. And if you don't, what counter-measures against the election result will you support?

Views like yours really threaten an orderly and civilized society, not that there's much of that left in America now Trump's had four years to screw it up.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

If the Democrats come up with another 10 million fraudulent mail-in votes and steal the election,

This wildy inaccurate, unproven and irresponsible misinformation is one of the reasons why America teeters on the edge.

Sane, measured debate has been jettisoned in favour of outright falsehoods and blatant distortion.

he can and should call in the troops if necessary to put down out of control unrest

Thus legitimising the language of dictators who see protesters as vermin to be "put down". Let's hope that such rhetoric will be consigned to the history books after President Biden takes the reins.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

The champion of democracy isn't capable of holding an election anymore lol!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

If the Democrats come up with another 10 million fraudulent mail-in votes and steal the election, Trump is supposed to concede, according to the Democrats. That would be a betrayal of his duty to uphold the Constitution. He won't do that.

You're going to claim that Trump losing is de facto evidence of voter fraud.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Maybe but Trump will call oathkeepers, Bundies, 3%ers, and other white supremacist militias to keep Trump in the WH in case he loses. Because Trump will never leave the WH even if he loses. Civil war is expected to fight against socialism. Soon Trump will call on his people to fight if he loses.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The short answer is that the DoD civilian and unformed military leadership want no part of anything to do with the election and its aftermath. Nobody in the military wants to be used against their own people. It would tear the military apart internally and the generals will not risk that for any reason.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This conversation is getting out of hand. Sit back, chill. Tuesday will come soon enough, and then everyone can pick up their guns and start shooting each other. American politics is an outhouse.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

If the Democrats come up with another 10 million fraudulent mail-in votes 

An allegation with no supporting evidence. Colorado has had mail in voting for over ten years and even after a thorough investigation of their voting process after conservative groups lodged complaints of "fraud" there were less than a dozen provable instances of fraudulent voting that could be found. Claiming widespread fraud completely ignores the fact that is very hard to fool the people who compare signatures on ballots to those on voter registration cards and the fact that a vote cannot be counted unless the voter is registered. No registration card, no vote. Been that way for as long as I have voted, and that's decades. Lots and lots of ballots are rejected for signature mis-match or for not using the correct security envelope. A proportion of those are most likely honest votes with a sloppy signature or other honest mistakes but out of an abundance of caution they are rejected. The greater impact in fact isn't fraudulent votes but honest votes that are not counted due to vote security considerations. So please, stop lying like this. This non stop stream of lies is doing grave harm to the US.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

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