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Trump says military 'ready, willing and able' to deploy to Minneapolis amid protests

Active-duty forces are normally prohibited from taking part in domestic law enforcement, but the Insurrection Act of 1807 allows for a state legislature or governor to request assistance in the event of civil unrest.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced Saturday that the military police were ready to deploy to Minneapolis amid ongoing protests in the aftermath of George Floyd's death.

"We have our military ready, willing and able, if they ever want to call our military. We can have troops on the ground very quickly," Trump said as he left the White House Saturday afternoon on his way to Florida for the second attempt at the SpaceX launch. "They're using their National Guard right now, as you know."

"They've got to be tough, they've got to be strong, they've got to be respected," Trump said, speaking of Minnesota government officials, adding that there were protesters that needed to be "taught" that they "can't do this."

The move would take service members from around the country and prepare them to deploy to Minneapolis if the governor elects to use those resources.

Active-duty forces are normally prohibited from taking part in domestic law enforcement, but the Insurrection Act of 1807 allows for a state legislature or governor to request assistance in the event of civil unrest.

Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, said in a statement that the "Secretary of Defense and the Chairman have personally spoken with Governor Walz twice in the last 24-hours and expressed the department’s readiness to provide support to local and state authorities as requested."

"At this time there is no request by the Governor of Minnesota for Title 10 forces to support the Minnesota National Guard or state law enforcement," he continued, adding that the U.S. Northern Command was ordered to increase their alert status from a 48-hour recall to a 4-hour status in case the governor requested their assistance.

Protests erupted in Minneapolis and in several cities in the U.S. this week after Floyd, a black man, died when a white Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin Floyd down on the ground for almost nine minutes after taking him into custody. The incident was caught on multiple cameras and Floyd could be heard pleading with the officer, saying, “I can’t breathe.”

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Trump has been critical of Minnesota’s response, calling the Minneapolis mayor "radical" and unprepared to deal with the protests.

At a press conference Saturday afternoon, Attorney General William Barr said that the Department of Justice was prepared to "take all action necessary to enforce federal law" and reminded the public that it was a federal crime to cross state lines to participate in "violent rioting."

Barr and others have suggested that some of the Minneapolis protestors have been from out of town.

Attorney General William Barr also blamed anti-fascists groups on Saturday for escalating the protests.

“In many places it appears the violence is planned, organized and driven by anarchic and left extremist groups — far let extremist groups — using antifa-like tactics, many of whom traveled from outside the state to promote the violence," Barr said, adding that the Department of Justice was prepared to "take all action necessary to enforce federal law."

While Barr did not offer any evidence to support this statement, a Department of Justice spokesperson says that information and intelligence is being provided to federal authorities by state and local law enforcement who are familiar with various groups and individuals.

Trump backed up Barr's statement in a tweet, writing "Crossing State lines to incite violence is a FEDERAL CRIME!" and the federal government "will step in and do what has to be done, and that includes using the unlimited power of our Military and many arrests."

"I understand the pain that people are feeling," Trump said in Florida during remarks to NASA following the successful SpaceX launch. "We support the right of peaceful protesters, and we hear their pleas. But what we are now seeing on the streets of our cities has nothing to do with justice or with peace."

"The memory of George Floyd is being dishonored by rioters, looters, and anarchists," he said. "The mobs are devastating the life's work of good people and destroying their dreams. Right now, America needs creation, not destruction. Cooperation, not contempt. Security, not anarchy. And there will be no anarchy."

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Saturday that he would fully mobilize the Minnesota National Guard for the first time since World War II to bring an end to the "wanton destruction" protests that he blamed on protesters from outside the state.

Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, head of Minnesota's National Guard, said that he was not consulted on Trump's decision to activate the Army but that he thought it was a "prudent move."

“You may have seen or heard that this evening the president directed the Pentagon to put units of the Untied States Army on alter to possible operation in Minneapolis. While we were not consulted as it relates to that, I do believe it’s a prudent move to provide other options available to the governor if the governor elects to use those resources.”

Courtney Kube contributed.