Pentagon Leaders Reject Trump Call For Poll Watchers: ‘We Don’t Police Streets’

Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy testifies in response to Government Accountability Office findings about substandard military housing during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington... Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy testifies in response to Government Accountability Office findings about substandard military housing during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, December 3, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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October 13, 2020 6:00 p.m.

Pentagon leaders on Tuesday said that they have not received any requests to deploy active-duty or National Guard troops to handle potential civil unrest during the November presidential election, despite President Trump’s call for his supporters to act poll watchers.

During the first debate against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden last month, Trump called on supporters to “go into the polls and watch very carefully,” which sparked fears of voter intimidation and violence at polling places.

Trump also prompted fears of election-related violence last month after he refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election to Biden.

On Tuesday, Gen. James McConville, chief of staff of the Army, denied receiving guidance regarding training for soldiers related to potential deployments if election protests become violent, according to the Associated Press.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, who heads up the D.C. National Guard, similarly remarked that federal agencies have not asked for military troops in anticipation of potential election-related unrest and that the Guard’s focus would be limited to protecting federal property and supporting law enforcement.

“We support law enforcement,” McCarthy said, according to Defense One. “We don’t police American streets.”

According to the AP, former senior Pentagon official Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) said in separate remarks to reporters that she doesn’t expect “wide-scale violence” on or after Election Day, but added that she “wouldn’t be surprised if we saw limited skirmishes.” Slotkin pointed that reason as rationale for why she and Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), a fellow member of the House Armed Services Committee, asked defense leaders on the extent the military would have in the election process.

McConville and McCarthy’s remarks come just days after Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley told NPR that there is “zero” role for the military if results in the presidential election are contested.

The D.C. National Guard came under fire in June following Trump’s surprise church photo-op, which happened after aggressive tactics were used to quell protests in front of the White House in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

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