Trump hints at expanding domestic role for the military within the U.S.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — While campaigning in Iowa this year, Donald Trump said his presidency has been barred from using the military to quell violence in predominantly Democratic cities and states.

“Next time, I won’t wait,” the 2024 Republican presidential nominee told the audience, calling New York City and Chicago “crime dens.” “One of the things I’ve done is let them do it and we’ll show how bad they can do it,” he said. “Well, we did that. “We don’t have to wait any longer.”

Trump has not specified exactly how he would use the military for a second term, though he and his advisers have indicated they have wide latitude to call out units. While the regular deployment of the military within the country’s borders is a departure from tradition, the former president has already signaled a brutal agenda if he wins, from mass deportations to travel bans on certain Muslim-majority countries.

The law, first drafted in the country’s infancy, gives Trump virtually unlimited power to do so as commander-in-chief, military and legal experts said in a series of interviews.

Read more: A Colorado judge rejected a challenge under the Constitution’s Sedition Clause and held Trump in the election.

The Sedition Act allows presidents to call up reserve or active military units to respond to unrest in states, an authority that cannot be reviewed by courts. One of the few guardrails requires the president to simply disperse the participants.

“The main obstacle to the president using the violence law is basically political, presidents don’t want to be the guy who sends tanks down Main Street. There’s not much in the law to keep the president’s hand,” said Joseph Nunn, a national security expert at the Brennan Center for Justice.

A Trump campaign spokeswoman declined to comment on several questions about what powers Trump might use to carry out his plan.

Four years after the Constitution was ratified, Congress passed the Act in 1792. The present is an amalgamation of various laws passed between that time and the 1870s, a time when there was not much in the way of local law enforcement.

“It’s a law created in many ways for a country that no longer exists,” he said.

It is also one of the most important exceptions to the Posse Comitatus Act, which generally prohibits the use of the military for law enforcement.

Trump has made clear his plans if he wins the presidency, including the use of the military on the border and in cities struggling with violent crime. His plans include a military crackdown on foreign drug dealers, which has been championed by other Republican primary candidates such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, a former UN ambassador and South Carolina governor.

See: Jonathan Carl explores Trump’s perception of the GOP in his new book, ‘I’m Tired of Winning.’

The threats have raised questions about military oaths, presidential powers and who Trump might appoint to support his policies.

Trump has indicated that he will bring back Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served briefly as Trump’s national security adviser and pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI before being pardoned by Trump. Flynn in 2011. The day after the 2020 election, Trump seized voting machines and ordered troops in some states to help run the election again.

Attempts to invoke the insurgency and use the military to police the country could trigger pressure from the Pentagon, the new General Charles Q. Brown. He was one of eight members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to sign a memo to military personnel following the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. The memo emphasized the swearing-in and called the events of that day “riotous and riotous” aimed at ending Democrat Joe Biden’s certification victory over Trump.

Trump and his party have broad support among those who have served in the military. AP VoteCast’s in-depth survey of more than 94,000 voters nationwide found that 59 percent of U.S. military veterans voted for Trump in the 2020 presidential election. In the 2022 midterms, 57 percent of military veterans supported Republican candidates.

Presidents have issued a total of 40 proclamations invoking the law, some of which have been made repeatedly for the same crisis, he said. Lyndon Johnson called it three times in Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington in response to urban unrest after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

See: Trump’s fiery rhetoric has raised new concerns about violence and authoritarianism.

During the civil rights era, Presidents Johnson, John F. Kennedy, and Dwight Eisenhower used the law to protect activists and students from desegregating schools. Eisenhower sends the 101st Airborne to Little Rock, Arkansas, to protect black students from an integrated middle school after the state’s governor activates the National Guard to keep the students out.

George H. W. Bush was the last president to use the Terrorism Act in response to the 1992 riots in Los Angeles after white police officers who beat black motorist Rodney King in a videotaped incident were acquitted.

Repeated attempts to call the action under a new Trump presidency could put pressure on military leaders who may face consequences for their actions despite the president’s directive.

The question, said Michael O’Hanlon, director of foreign policy research at the Brookings Institution think tank, is whether the military is being sufficiently imaginative with the scenarios it has been presenting to future officers. Ambiguity, especially when power is involved, is not something military personnel are comfortable with, he said.

“There are a lot of legally developed institutional checks and balances in our country, and it’s hard for a president to do something arbitrarily out of the blue,” O’Hallon said of America’s defense strategy and use of military force. But Trump is good at conjuring up a semi-rational train of thought that leads to a place where there is enough violence, enough violence, and legal harassment to call for military service.

See: How Trump sees his second term as an opportunity to promote loyalists and punish critics

Representative Pat Ryan, a New York Democrat representing a congressional district that includes West Point, was the first US Military Academy graduate to take the oath of office three times and speak more times during his military career. An officer said there was an extensive classroom focus on the Constitution and his or her responsibilities to those under his or her command.

“They tell us the seriousness of the oath and who it was for and who it wasn’t for,” he said.

Ryan said he thought it was universally understood, but Jan. 6 was “very concerning and a wake-up call for me.” Several ex-soldiers and active-duty military personnel have been charged with crimes in connection with the attack.

While those relationships are troubling, he said he thinks there’s a very small percentage of the military who hold the same sentiments.

William Banks, a Syracuse University law professor and expert on national security law, said a military officer is not obligated to follow “illegal orders.” That can create a difficult situation, as leaders whose units are called to the local police can accuse them of taking illegal measures.

“But there’s a big thumbs up in favor of the president’s interpretation of the order being legal,” Banks said. “You’re going to have a very big row to drag and if you choose not to follow a presidential order, you’re going to have a big uproar in the military.”

Nunn, who suggested measures to limit the invocation of the law, said military personnel could not be ordered to violate the law.

“Army members have a legal duty not to disobey an illegal order. “At the same time, it is too much to ask from the army because they are also obliged to obey orders,” he said. “And the penalty for disobeying an order that is found to be lawful is the end of your career and possibly a long prison term. The stakes for them are extremely high.

Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Michelle L. Price in New York and Lynley Sanders in Washington contributed to this report.



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