June 3, 2020, 10:29 AM CDT
By Courtney Kube and Rich Schapiro

 

Breaking with President Donald Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he doesn't support using the military to quell protests triggered by the death of George Floyd.

“I don’t think they need to be used,” Esper told NBC News in an exclusive interview Tuesday night. “We have more than enough National Guard capacity out there.”

 

Esper expanded on those remarks in a press briefing on Wednesday.

“I say this not only as Secretary of Defense but also as a former soldier and a former member of the National Guard,” Esper said.

 

Trump on Monday raised the specter of invoking the 1807 law in a Rose Garden address on Monday. Speaking at the same time as federal officers used force to clear peaceful protesters from outside the White House, Trump threatened to use the military to stamp out the continuing unrest across the country.

“If a city or a state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,” Trump said.

 
SEE:      Defense Secy. Esper clarifies circumstances of Trump’s church photo-op, National Guard's actions

In his Wednesday remarks, Esper said he believes the National Guard is “best suited for performing domestic support to civil authorities in these situations in support of local enforcement.”

The death of Floyd, whose final moments under the knee of a Minnesota police officer were captured on camera, set off days-long protests across the country, some of them violent.