Trump says the top U.S. military officer is ‘in charge’ as George Floyd protests rock the nation


U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley answers reporters’ questions during a news conference at the Pentagon the day after it was announced that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a U.S. raid in Syria October 28, 2019 in Arlington, Virginia.

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images News | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — In a contentious call with the nation’s governors Monday, President Donald Trump said he was putting America’s highest-ranking military officer “in charge” as protests over the death of George Floyd rock the United States for a seventh day.

“General Milley is here who’s head of Joint Chiefs of Staff, a fighter, a warrior, and a lot of victories and no losses. And he hates to see the way it’s being handled in the various states. And I’ve just put him in charge,” Trump told governors, according to audio obtained by NBC.

It was not immediately clear what Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley would be tasked with as it relates to the domestic unrest across the nation. The Pentagon added few details. “The chairman will continue to advise the secretary of Defense,” Pentagon spokesperson U.S. Army Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell said.

“As of this morning, 23 states and the District of Columbia had mobilized personnel in support of state and local authorities. Combined, they provided over 17,000 National Guard troops in support,” Mitchell added.

When asked to elaborate, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said she would not “get ahead of any actions that will be announced” on the matter.

“There will be additional federal assets deployed across the nation and there will be a central command center in conjunction with the state and local governments that will include general Milley, [Defense Secretary Mark] Esper and [Attorney General William] Barr, but I won’t go any further in announcing any actions,” McEnany said during a White House press briefing. 

NBC News reported that Trump has considered using the Insurrection Act, which was adopted in 1807. Under the move, he would deploy troops to respond to the demonstrations. The law was last invoked during the 1992 Rodney King riots in California, at the request of then-Gov. Pete Wilson, according to NBC.

The latest revelation comes as Trump called for governors on Monday to use force when confronting protesters, who have taken to the streets across the U.S. to protest Floyd’s death as well as police brutality. Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The officer was charged with third-degree murder. An independent autopsy found that asphyxiation was the cause of Floyd’s death.

Follow CNBC’s live blog covering all the latest news on the demonstrations gripping the United States. 

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