• "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 at the Pentagon.
  • Esper stressed that the US is not currently in one of those situations and expressed a desire to continue to rely on the National Guard and local law enforcement.
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President Donald Trump's secretary of defense said Wednesday that sending active-duty troops to address nationwide unrest should be a "last resort," adding that the US is not there yet.

"I have 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," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said at the Pentagon on Wednesday.

"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."

Trump appeared to suggest Monday evening that he might invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807, which allows the president to deploy US forces inside the country in response to unrest through executive order, overriding the Posse Comitatus Act, which bars federal troops from engaging in domestic law-enforcement activities.

The 213-year-old law was last invoked in response to the Los Angeles riots in 1992.

"We are ending the riots and lawlessness that has spread throughout our country. We will end it now," Trump said Monday, encouraging mayors and governors to deploy the National Guard to "dominate the streets."

"If a city or a state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents," he continued, "then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them."

Speaking about Washington, DC, in particular, Trump said that he was "dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers."

Following the president's announcement, the Department of Defense moved 1,600 US Army soldiers into positions around DC, but these forces have remained outside the city at bases and are not participating in the ongoing response to civil disturbances.

Current nationwide unrest follows the death of George Floyd, who died after a white police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Protests have erupted across the country, and while many demonstrations have been peaceful, there have been numerous reports of violence, rioting, looting, and property damage.

Speaking out for the first time this began, Esper said that "the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman is a horrible crime," adding that the officers should be "held accountable for his murder."

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SEE ALSO: The US military moved 1,600 soldiers into positions outside the nation's capital and has them on alert to respond to protests if necessary