‘Dictator’ Trump Plans to Deploy Massive Number of Troops on U.S. Soil

trump day 1 dictator

Donald Trump’s plans to give himself sweeping powers on “day one” of a new administration include sending vast numbers of U.S. troops — potentially “hundreds of thousands” — to close the southern border and to help build a new network of immigrant detention camps, three people familiar with the situation tell Rolling Stone.  

Trump and some of his lieutenants have repeatedly stated that any second administration must treat migrant crossings as a “war” on American soil. During Trump’s first term, officials and attorneys had thwarted similar plans for a military police force at the border due to legal fears, according to former top officials such as Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

Now, the former president is determined to surround himself with aides and MAGA-friendly lawyers who can make such draconian policies “perfectly legal” in a potential second term, two sources close to Trump say. While a second Trump administration is far from certain, groups like the American Civil Liberties Union are nonetheless preparing for a possible blitz of orders involving military authorities should he win, lawyers and activists say.

Over the past year, Trump and some of his closest allies have talked about how they would immediately deploy a “surge” of federal troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to seal it, should Trump win re-election next year, according to three people familiar with the matter. At times, Trump has expressed a desire to send what one source describes as “many thousands” of U.S. troops to close the southern border and implement his draconian vision. Another source familiar with the matter recalls Trump has said the operation may require anywhere between tens of thousands — even hundreds of thousands — of troops. 

“I have heard anywhere between 100,000 to 300,000 from President Trump, Stephen Miller, and others on what may be required to get the job done right,” one of the people familiar with the matter says. “There are differences of opinion on how many you would actually need, and everyone has their own ideas.… Nothing is set in stone.”

Since the 1980s, presidents of both parties have sent active-duty and National Guard troops to the U.S. border, often with the support of Congress. Those deployments have often involved troops performing either support or administrative functions in order to allow Customs and Border Protection officers to focus on law enforcement. During his first administration, Trump sent more than 5,000 National Guard troops to the border, where they assisted in support activities like stringing concertina wire along the border with Mexico. 

At the time, Trump would repeatedly grumble about how this act was a half-measure and complained that “disloyal” administration officials kept him from sending a larger force to the southern border, according to a former senior administration official.

Those instincts prompted a clash between Trump’s top immigration aide Stephen Miller and then Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. At the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Miller began drafting a plan for another deployment, which would have called for sending 250,000 troops to seal the border with Mexico, according to The New York Times. An angry Esper reportedly intervened and thwarted the idea.

The tentative strategy for a second Trump term — using the active-duty military in a direct law-enforcement role on the border — may be a continuation of Miller’s plans. But it represents a break with how presidents have used the military. Trump and his aides envision using deployed troops to carry out roles currently prohibited under federal law — including the arrest, detention, and transport of migrants at the southern border. Doing so would require a historic power grab in order to enable it, according to both critics and sources close to Trump.

Trump has privately weighed invoking the Insurrection Act in order to give himself the authorities necessary to turn the military into his own border police force. The act was passed in the 19th century and designed to allow presidents to provide militia to what were then sparse civilian authorities in the event they became overwhelmed. Since then, presidents have used those authorities in rare circumstances, including President Dwight Eisenhower’s use of the 101st Airborne in Little Rock, Arkansas, following the Supreme Court’s order desegregating schools.

Beyond a possible troop surge, Trump and his policy advisers have also considered using the first day of a second administration to institute an expanded version of the infamous travel ban (dubbed the “Muslim ban” by critics); direct the government to begin using the pandemic-era Title 42 restrictions, which allow the government to turn away migrants on public health grounds; and launch what he publicly claims would be “the largest domestic deportation operation in American history,” sources say.

As The New York Times reported in November, these initiatives would require the construction of “sprawling camps” to “round up” massive numbers of undocumented immigrants, and such “plans would sharply restrict both legal and illegal immigration in a multitude of ways.”

Sources tell Rolling Stone that the former president and some of his political allies and counselors have discussed how thousands of federal troops could be used to rapidly build and manage camps to house undocumented immigrants awaiting deportation.

Neither Miller nor a Trump spokesman responded to questions from Rolling Stone

If Trump is re-elected, immigration law will have “fewer safeguards” and administration officials are likely to “get even more creative,” American Immigration Council policy director Aaron Reichlin-Melnick tells Rolling Stone. He says he and colleagues are already preparing for the worst. “The biggest fear for a future Trump administration is not just that they would weaponize existing immigration laws, but they will act in a way — whether with the military, or public-health laws — that supersedes immigration law.”

The Posse Comitatus Act bars American presidents from using the military as a domestic police force, as Trump’s border militarization plans demand. But in a second administration, Trump may be able to sidestep those restrictions by invoking the Insurrection Act.

“The problem with the Insurrection Act is that it is not the carefully crafted break-glass-in-case-of-emergency kind of tool that it should be,” Joseph Nunn, a counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, explains. “Instead, the Insurrection Act gives essentially unlimited discretion to the president to use the military as a domestic police force.”

Both courts and Congress have historically granted presidents broad discretion in determining when to invoke the act, and presidents have largely been cautious in requesting those powers, Nunn says. 

But Trump’s recent talk of a limited dictatorship and his history of disregarding norms raise questions about how far he would take the already broad authorities granted by the Insurrection Act.

MAGA policy wonks and former Trump administration officials who have talked to Trump about these matters predict that if he were re-elected and actually went through with much of this, doing so would likely spark a wave of resignations, two sources with knowledge of the situation say.

Those two sources say they expect that Trump’s authoritarian plans for an immigration crackdown in a second administration would likely prompt high-profile resignations among senior military officers fearful of executing unlawful orders. 

“We hope that the military, as well as all sectors of the government and society, would push back, as well,” says Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s national Immigrants’ Rights Project. But whether or not Trump faces any meaningful pushback from within over his immigration plans, “we are prepared to use every tool we have to combat that, including litigation,” he adds.

Despite the discussions taking place within Trump’s inner circle, it remains unclear just how far a re-elected Trump would ultimately go. The border policy discussions taking place at the upper echelons of Trumpland remain fluid, and other sources close to Trump stress that any plans for a warzone-type deployment of troops could easily be scaled back. 

In public, the ex-president has hinted at his desire to turn at least some of them into a reality. “Upon my inauguration I will immediately terminate every open-borders policy of the Biden administration,” Trump told his fans during an Iowa rally in September. “I’ll make clear that we must use any and all resources needed to stop the invasion, including moving thousands of troops currently stationed overseas.”

That rhetoric matches what Trump has said in private. In one conversation earlier this year, a longtime Trump ally relays to Rolling Stone, the ex-president said his advisers had told him that building up the kind of military border force he wants may require pulling American troops “from Germany” or other nations, then redeploying them for the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Miles Taylor, a former Trump Department of Homeland Security official, says he saw similar ideas from the then-president thwarted by attorneys. At times, Taylor says, he learned that Trump had told his White House chief of staff, John Kelly, and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that he wanted to send “hundreds of thousands of troops to the southern border to handle enforcement and stop the ‘invasion.’” 


“Whenever he’d bring this up, he would be repeatedly told that that would be illegal and violate the Posse Comitatus Act, to which he’d demand that the administration lawyers needed to ‘find a way’ to make it legal,” Taylor recalls. Faced with inaction by administration attorneys, Trump often forgot about the issue and moved on. 

“If he gets re-elected, I think it would be foolish to think he would just let it go again,” Taylor says.

Source link: https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/dictator-trump-troops-border-1234929369/

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