Defense secretary breaks with Trump over deploying troops to cities

Mark Esper has flat-out opposed the president’s idea to invoke the Insurrection Act to get active-duty troops to U.S. cities, saying it should only be used in the most dire situations.
3:22 | 06/03/20

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Transcript for Defense secretary breaks with Trump over deploying troops to cities
developments involving president president and mark Esper. Esper publicly breaking with the president about using active duty troops against U.S. Citizens. Now reversing course. Here's Jonathan Karl. Reporter: Today, a significant break between the president and his defense secretary over the issue of deploying active duty troops to crack down on violent protests in American cities. The president had threatened to do just that earlier this week. If the city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residence, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for Reporter: That would require the president to invoke a 200-plus year old law called the insurrection act. The defense secretary flatly said today he opposes that. 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. We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the insurrection act. Reporter: Secretary Esper also said the Pentagon is investigating why a national Guard helicopter was flying so low on Monday, in a way some saw as an effort to intimidate protesters. Esper's words were not welcomed today at the white house. The press secretary made it clear the president is still very much considering invoking the insurrection act. He has the sole authority to invoke the insurrection act, and if necessary, he will do so to protect American citizens. Reporter: This morning, the Pentagon ordered 200 troops in the D.C. Area to go home. But after the meeting this afternoon, an abrupt reversal. The Pentagon said troops will remain in place. Esper was part of the team that walked with the president from the white house to St. John's church for a photo op about 30 minutes after law enforcement forcibly removed hundreds of peaceful protesters to clear the way. The white house says that was done on orders from attorney general Barr. Secretary Esper insists he knew nothing about it. I was not aware of law enforcement's plan for the park. I was not briefed on them. Reporter: Today, the president claimed he didn't know about the plan to force out the peaceful protesters, either. I didn't say, oh, move them out. I didn't know who was there. I figured I was going to walk over to the church very nearby. Let's get to Jon Karl, near St. John's church. We see the demonstrators behind you. We've learned that on Friday, president trump was rushed to a secure bunker under the white house. Now we know the reason why. The president was asked about whether he was sent to the bunker, he claimed he was just inspecting the bunker? Reporter: The president acknowledged he did go to the bunker, but said he went there to inspect it. That directly contradicts what we've heard from multiple sources that was triggered the move to the bunker was the white house going to the highest level of alert after a barrier had

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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