06.04.20

Van Hollen Leads Democratic Senators in Demand for Details, Cost of Staging Active Duty Troops in the National Capital Region

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) led a letter demanding answers from Defense Secretary Mark Esper about this week’s haphazard decision-making around the transfer of 1,600 active duty troops to the National Capital Region.

The Senators begin, “Earlier this week, the country watched in horror as U.S. military personnel and federal law enforcement were ordered to shut down peaceful protests in our nation’s capital. As tear gas and rubber bullets were being fired at peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park, approximately 1,600 additional troops were staging at military installations near the District of Columbia in anticipation of the President’s possible invocation of the Insurrection Act.”

On June 3, 2020, after initially ordering the troops’ return to their home bases, Secretary Esper reversed his decision and ordered them to remain. The Senators write, “we request an explanation of your initial decision and subsequent reversal, including what specific facts on the ground changed and whether you were ordered by the White House to reverse course.”

“To add insult to injury, the American people will have to foot the bill for these violations of their First Amendment rights. We request that the Department report to Congress not later than June 8 the total cost of staging U.S. military personnel and equipment, excluding the National Guard, at bases in the National Capital Region to date and an estimate of the ongoing cost per day to maintain this deployment,” they conclude.

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

 

Dear Secretary Esper:

Earlier this week, the country watched in horror as U.S. military personnel and federal law enforcement were ordered to shut down peaceful protests in our nation’s capital. As tear gas and rubber bullets were being fired at peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park, approximately 1,600 additional troops were staging at military installations near the District of Columbia in anticipation of the President’s possible invocation of the Insurrection Act.

The President’s use of military force against American citizens peacefully protesting is plainly unconstitutional. Now, we have learned that after initially ordering these troops to return to their home bases, you have reversed your decision and ordered them to remain. Not later than June 8, we request an explanation of your initial decision and subsequent reversal, including what specific facts on the ground changed and whether you were ordered by the White House to reverse course.

To add insult to injury, the American people will have to foot the bill for these violations of their First Amendment rights. We request that the Department report to Congress not later than June 8 the total cost of staging U.S. military personnel and equipment, excluding the National Guard, at bases in the National Capital Region to date and an estimate of the ongoing cost per day to maintain this deployment.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

 

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