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Tom Cotton: Send in the Troops

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is calling on President Trump to utilize the military in responding to the widespread violence and destruction that has broken out across America. In a New York Times op-ed, the senator writes, "[o]ne thing above all else will restore order to our streets: an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers."

"Outnumbered police officers, encumbered by feckless politicians, bore the brunt of the violence," the senator writes. 

After detailing some of the violence perpetrated by rioters against police officers, including the shooting of four St. Louis police officers and the killing of a 77-year-old retired police captain, the senator pushed back against the notion that the rioting has anything to do with the tragic death of George Floyd.

"On the contrary," Cotton argues, "nihilist criminals are simply out for loot and the thrill of destruction, with cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa infiltrating protest marches to exploit Floyd’s death for their own anarchic purposes. These rioters, if not subdued, not only will destroy the livelihoods of law-abiding citizens but will also take more innocent lives."

And while some governors have refused to mobilize the National Guard, Cotton notes the Guard and police are still outnumbered by rioters in some situations. 

"In these circumstances, the Insurrection Act authorizes the president to employ the military 'or any other means' in 'cases of insurrection, or obstruction to the laws,'" the senator writes.

On Monday night, President Trump threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act if governors failed to restore order. But Defense Sec. Mark Esper publicly disagreed with the idea, calling the invocation of the Insurrection Act a "last resort" that should only be utilized "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," Esper told the press on Wednesday.

Cotton disagrees. 

"Throughout our history, presidents have exercised this authority on dozens of occasions to protect law-abiding citizens from disorder," Cotton continues. "Nor does it violate the Posse Comitatus Act, which constrains the military’s role in law enforcement but expressly excepts statutes such as the Insurrection Act."

The senator cites historic examples from the 1950s and 1960s of Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson sending in troops in response to Democrats blocking school desegregation and threatening lives and property. He also cites the latest use of the Insurrection Act, when President George H.W. Bush sent the Army's Seventh Infantry and 1,500 Marines to protect Los Angeles during the 1992 Rodney King riots. 

Cotton cited a recent poll that found a majority of registered voters, including 37 percent of African Americans and almost half of Democrats, support cities calling in the military to address protests and demonstrations over the death of George Floyd. 

"The American people aren’t blind to injustices in our society, but they know that the most basic responsibility of government is to maintain public order and safety. In normal times, local law enforcement can uphold public order. But in rare moments, like ours today, more is needed, even if many politicians prefer to wring their hands while the country burns," Cotton concludes. 

On Monday, Sen. Cotton tweeted, "[The a]narchy, rioting, and looting needs to end tonight," to which President Trump seemingly agreed. 

On Wednesday, Ellie reported about a black woman in Philadelphia who used a megaphone to scold a group of protesters about the much bigger problems facing the African American community. The woman also echoed Sen. Cotton's calls for a military presence to help restore order in devastated communities across the country.

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