Exclusive: President Trump Moves Military Forces to Near-Wartime Alert Level in Washington D.C

The Pentagon has ordered forces and bases in the Washington D.C. area to "Force Protection Condition Charlie," a threat condition that indicates "likely" targeting of military forces and or terrorist action and the second highest alert level available.

The state of higher alert was ordered as of 7:30 a.m. Tuesday morning for the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. The order follows a rapidly moving and confusing set of statements and threats coming out of the White House in the previous 24 hours. During this period, President Donald Trump has threatened state governors with federal intervention, and appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley as the commander of federal forces—a legally questionable order. Under the law, the chairman serves as the principal military adviser to the president, not a military commander.

DC National Guard
Members of the National Guard Military Police board armored personnel carriers at the Joint Force Headquarters of the D.C. National Guard on June 2, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty

"The role of the U.S. military in domestic U.S. law enforcement is limited by law," Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement Tuesday. "It must not be used in violation of those limits and I see little evidence that President Trump understands this fundamental premise."

"I remain gravely concerned about President Trump's seemingly autocratic rule and how it affects the judgment of our military leadership," Rep. Smith says.

As a further measure Monday, the president quietly federalized the District of Columbia National Guard, the first National Guard troops to be federalized in response to the outbreak of national protests responding to the death of George Floyd.

The D.C.-area troops fall under a little known command—Joint Task Force National Capital Region (JTF-NCR), which was originally activated in March to implement secret continuity of government and other emergency plans in response to coronavirus.

The Joint Task Force is commanded by Army Maj. Gen. Omar Jones. He reports to the "combatant commander" for North America, Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaunghnessy, the commander of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), headquartered in Colorado Springs, CO. And Gen. O'Shaunghnessy reports to the president, through the secretary of defense.

In addition to federalizing the D.C. National Guard, additional National Guard units from adjoining states and West Virginia were also brought into the capital region Monday night, also under federal orders.

And right after midnight Tuesday morning, transport aircraft from Ft. Drum, New York, and Ft. Riley, Kansas, arrived at Andrews Air Force Base in southern Maryland and disembarked active-duty military police and infantry soldiers to take on the military defense of federal buildings and bases. Some 250 active duty military police from Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, had already been staged at military bases inside the district by midnight.

According to the D.C. Guard, "Hundreds of Soldiers and Airmen are supporting U.S. Park Police, federal police and the Metro Police Department to maintain order during protests in the vicinity of the White House and federal monuments."

"I am mobilizing all available federal resources, civilian and military," President Trump said Monday, referring to "thousands and thousands" of military and federal civilian forces at his disposal. Last night, law enforcement officers of 10 federal agencies took up positions in the D.C. area, most around the White House and Capitol building as well as federal offices and monuments. This includes the FBI, ATF, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshals and Bureau of Prisons officers of the Department of Justice, and Customs and Border Protection, ICE, the Secret Service and Coast Guard officer of the Department of Homeland Security.

Across the country, at least 26 states and the District of Columbia have now mobilized over 20,000 guardsmen and women to "protect life and property; and preserve peace, order and public safety," according to Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau.

The 26 states that have activated National Guard troops are: Arizona, Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. The Guard units in the states continue to serve under "state active duty" and the command of each state governor.

On the ground, FBI and other federal law enforcement officers have joined local police.

And up in the air, federal surveillance aircraft—most belonging to the CBP, but also FBI and military aircraft and helicopters—flew surveillance missions Monday over Buffalo, NY; Chicago, IL; Washington, DC; Detroit, MI; El Paso, TX; Miami, Florida; and San Diego, CA

trump milley esper washington dc protests
Donald Trump walks with US Attorney General William Barr (L), US Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper (C), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley (R), and others from the White House to visit St. John's Church after the area was cleared of people protesting the death of George Floyd June 1, 2020, in Washington, DC. - RENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump, in stating yesterday that his goal was "to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson, and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights," used language that some analysts say could be a step in the direction of invoking the Enforcement of the Laws to Restore Public Order Act—commonly known The Insurrection Act—that would allow him to deploy military troops within the United States to suppress civil disorder, insurrection and rebellion.

President Trump said he would take action in cases where governors "refuse" to enforce the law or protect the civil rights of their citizens. This is considered to be a possible trigger for the White House to invoke the Insurrection Act without the agreement of an individual governor.

Both Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Gen. Milley were at the White House Monday as the national security principals of the administration discussed the federal response and the escalation of the National Guard to involve federal active duty forces. Esper also took part in the presidential conference call with state governors. In that call, Esper referred to the streets of America as "battlespace" to be dominated, an expression that the president has now repeated numerous times.

As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Milley is the considered the senior military officer of the U.S. military and is formally the principal military adviser to the president. But he is not in command of any military forces, nor is he in the chain of command.

Two Pentagon sources with knowledge of the White House discussions tell Newsweek that neither Secretary Esper nor Gen. Milley have questioned the usefulness, propriety or legality of President Trump's moves to involve federal military forces in the current civil unrest.

In announcing that he was putting Gen. Milley in charge, President Trump said that Milley "hates the way it's being handled in the various states," but neither Milley nor the Pentagon has made any official announcement regarding his views or his new role. Last night Milley was seen walking the streets of the District of Columbia after curfew to view the scene.

Esper and Milley—wearing a combat camouflage uniform—also accompanied President Trump in his photo op yesterday at St. John's Episcopal Church across from the White House.

Washington DC protests national guard military trump
Members of the National Guard block an intersection after a demonstration on June 1, 2020 in Washington, DC. Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)

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