Donald Trump’s rows with Pentagon revealed: ‘Don’t poke hornet’s nest!’

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Trump and the US’ defence secretary, Mark Esper, have become tangled in a battle of opinion over the use of military personnel to subdue the George Floyd protests. The protests are entering their ninth day following the murder of unarmed black man George Floyd by a police officer.

Derek Chauvin, the officer who was pictured grounding his knee into Mr Floyd’s neck, has been charged with second-degree murder.

Three other officers who were at the scene but failed to stop Mr Chauvin face counts of aiding and abetting murder.

Mr Floyd’s death has sparked huge protests across the US against racism and the police killings of black Americans.

Protests have also been observed elsewhere around the world, including the UK.

In the US, armed police have been dispersed in an attempt to subdue the protests which, at times, have turned violent.

Protestors have continued to march peacefully, however, with videos posted to social media showing police using at times heavy force.

With the protests showing no sign of dying down, Trump earlier this week threatened to invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act.

This would allow the president to deploy troops on city streets, against the wishes of state and city authorities.

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Mr Esper categorically opposed the act’s use.

He said: “I say this not only as secretary of defence, 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.

“We are not in one of those situations now.

“I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.”

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[ANALYSIS] 

Around 700 troops from the 82nd airborne division, mostly military police and combat engineers, were flown to bases around Washington on Monday night.

Initial reports suggested that 200 would fly out on Wednesday, but within a few hours that decision was reversed.

A week before, when the protests first began to pick up momentum, it was reported that Trump had been rushed to the White House bunker.

He has since denied that he was forced to enter the bunker, rather, he told Fox News that he went down during the day for a “tiny period of time” for an “inspection”.

Trump’s clash with the Pentagon is not the first time the two power structures have clashed, though.

Earlier this year, tensions bubbled away after Trump ordered the strike against Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

Pentagon officials feared reprisal from the strike, citing alarm over fears of an expulsion of troops from Iraq and the threat of bombing cultural sites in Iran.

At the time, Mr Esper contradicted the White House’s calls to target culturally significant sites in response to retaliation from Tehran.

In the face of Trump, he said that the US would instead abide by the laws of armed conflict – which prohibit targeting such sites.

According to the Financial Times, tensions between Trump and the department of defence have long been on the rise.

It spoke to a former Pentagon official, who said: “There has been divided counsel inside the (defence department) over killing Soleimani for a long time, but probably the majority view has been don’t poke the hornet’s nest, because yes, we’ve got a lot of vulnerabilities out there because of the troops.”

Further to the tensions was Trump’s disregard of accepted defence traditions.

At the time, he tweeted that the US might target cultural sites in order to subdue opponent forces.

This struck a nerve with the Pentagon, as it could hurt its efforts to persuade other countries to live by the same rules and democratically.

More recently, James Mattis, the ex-US Defence Secretary, denounced Trump, saying he is currently deliberately stoking division.

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