President TrumpDonald John TrumpSessions accepts ‘Fox News Sunday’ invitation to debate, Tuberville declines Priest among those police cleared from St. John’s Church patio for Trump visit Trump criticizes CNN on split-screen audio of Rose Garden address, protesters clashing with police MORE is shifting after his threat to deploy U.S. troops in response to the protests over George Floyd’s death that are rocking the nation, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.
White House officials told the AP that the president is privately backing off on his warnings of deploying troops in response to the sometimes-violent demonstrations. The officials said law enforcement’s response to the protests this week showed local governments should be able to quell the demonstrations.
Current and former campaign and administration officials also told the news service that photos from the weekend showing fires set in Lafayette Square with the White House in the background angered the president, as did reports that he was in the White House bunker because of Friday’s protests.
A senior White House official said Trump wanted an aggressive response in Washington, D.C., to serve as an example for the rest of the country. Trump announced the plans to deploy the military in the capital city on Monday and threatened to send troops to other cities if the governors did not activate the National Guard.
The Defense Department has put together contingency plans for deploying the military if needed. Pentagon documents obtained by the AP described how soldiers from an Army division would protect the White House and other federal buildings if other law enforcement lost control of the protests.
The 82nd Airborne Division sent 715 soldiers in the Washington area on Monday and two more battalions, amounting to 1,300 soldiers, are on standby at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, according to documents obtained by the AP.
A White House official told the AP that the federal government has given all states with protests a list of National Guard resources. The official also said if governors don’t make use of all of their tools to quell a protest, they shouldn’t expect a generous response when requesting federal funds for cleanup and recovery.
The Pentagon deferred to the White House for comment. The White House did not immediately return a request to comment.
After Trump’s Monday announcement, he visited the nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church after a crowd of protesters in Lafayette Square was dispersed at least 15 minutes before the 7 p.m. curfew.
The order to forcibly remove the protesters reportedly came from Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrTrump praises ‘domination’ of DC protesters Antifa and anarchists have hijacked Floyd protests, but the left won’t admit it The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump mobilizes military against ‘angry mob,’ holds controversial photo op MORE. A person familiar with the matter told the AP that the decision for the removal was made earlier Monday, but Barr gave the verbal order when he arrived in the area.
Across the country, Tuesday’s protests were reportedly more peaceful than the ones that took place over the weekend, the AP noted.