The death of George Floyd has brought Americans face to face with one another in a harrowing display of passion and political will. This is not only true on Main Street, but on Pennsylvania Avenue as well.
There have been a number of dissenting voices on Capitol Hill this week, and they haven’t been constrained only to the left side of the aisle. Non-partisan officials have also spoken up, and are now taking heat from the President on account of it.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Pentagon reporters at a briefing Wednesday morning that he was not aware he would be accompanying President Trump to St. John’s church for a “photo op” on Monday.
He said he was aware he would be visiting the church and National Guard troops on the streets of D.C. but did not expect what took place.
“I was not aware a photo op was happening,” Esper said. “I do everything I can to stay apolitical.”
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Esper went on to tell the nation that he also disagreed with the President’s use of active duty military in the nation’s capital.
“I’ve always believed and continue to believe that the National Guard is best suited for performing domestic support to civil authorities in these situations in support of local law enforcement,” he said.
“I say this not only as secretary of defense, but also as a former soldier and a former member of the National Guard. The option to use active duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations,” he said.
“We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.”
Esper’s comments apparently drew criticism from the White House, behind closed doors.
Esper’s remarks at the Pentagon Wednesday remarks did not go over well at the White House, CNN reported Wednesday, citing multiple people familiar with the matter who said that Trump and other top White House officials are “not happy” with the secretary.
A US official close to Esper and familiar with White House thinking told CNN that Esper is being “skewered” by some inside the White House for expressing his views, which aides were not given any advanced warning on before Esper spoke Wednesday.
The tensions that have gripped the nation have also infiltrated that highest offices in the land, which may be an indication of just how divisive this issue will be as we count down the months to the 2020 election.
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