July 28, 2020

Warren to Attorney General Barr, Secretaries Esper, Wolf & Bernhardt: Stop Trump from Turning your Departments' Personnel into his "Personal Militia"

Senator calls for leaders to refuse to deploy forces under their control against people in the U.S. in advance of the November elections & in the event President Trump will not peacefully leave office "The deployment of federal paramilitary forces against civilians is a historic embarrassment for our nation, and harms the United States' standing in the world"

Text of letter to Cabinet Secretaries (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote today to Attorney General William Barr, Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Mark Esper, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, and Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary David Bernhardt, urging them to stop President Donald Trump's use of paramilitary domestic federal law enforcement officers and agents against protesters and civilian bystanders in Portland, Oregon, and his imminent threats to deploy tens of thousands of these personnel in Seattle, Chicago, and other U.S. cities. President Trump has used these forces - who are improperly trained, unsuited for their operation, and have engaged in legally questionable tactics - in American cities despite clear opposition from governors, mayors, and people in the communities in which they have been deployed.

"You are each responsible for the command of military or civilian troops and domestic law enforcement personnel in your agencies. I urge you not to allow these personnel under your command or supervision to be used in any future domestic actions against people exercising their right to protest," wrote Senator Warren in her letter. 

These forces have reportedly failed to clearly display law enforcement identification and in some cases wore camouflage uniforms suggestive of a military deployment. Untrained forces reportedly "flooded street corridors with tear gas and shot projectiles," and unidentified federal agents were spotted "driving ... unmarked minivans grabbing individuals off the street" without explanation or probable cause. The operation has reportedly targeted not only civilians expressing their free speech rights but also clearly identified journalists covering the ongoing protests.

In her letter, Senator Warren raised concerns about how this partisan use of paramilitary domestic federal law enforcement forces could give the President the opportunity to pit federal forces against their own people in the months and days leading up to and after the 2020 presidential election. The potential for President Trump to activate domestic forces is even more disturbing given his ongoing refusal to commit to respecting the results of the 2020 presidential election and peacefully leave office if he is defeated. 

Senator Warren asked Attorney General Barr, Secretaries Esper and Bernhardt, and Acting Secretary Wolf to commit that they will not deploy the military or civilian forces under their control to be used by the President to suppress dissent and democracy. 

Senator Warren recently joined 41 of her Senate colleagues in introducing the Preventing Authoritarian Policing Tactics on America's Streets Act (S. 4220), which would block the Trump Administration from deploying paramilitary domestic federal law enforcement forces against Americans. Last week, she joined colleagues writing to Administration officials seeking answers about actions against protestors and possible future deployments of enforcement agents. In February, she sent a letter to Acting Secretary Wolf, as well as the heads of CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), expressing concern about the menacing deployment of CBP Border Patrol Tactical Unit personnel to Boston and other American cities to supplement ICE enforcement activities.