AG Letitia James threatening legal action against President Trump if military deployed to quell protests

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NY Attorney General Letitia James (Photo by Todd Maisel)

New York State Attorney General Letitia James has not been shy in trying to take President Donald Trump to court. And that sentiment did not change after Monday night’s events.

In a statement obtained by amNewYork Metro, Attorney General James did not mince words when threatening legal action against President Trump, whose address to the nation Monday included warnings of military deployment to quell the protests that have risen from the murder of George Floyd by Minnesota police.

“The President of the United States is not a dictator, and President Trump does not and will not dominate New York state,” Attorney General James said. “In fact, the president does not have the right to unilaterally deploy U.S. military across American states. We respect and will guard the right to peaceful protest, and my office will review any federal action with an eye toward protecting our state’s rights. Rest assured: We will not hesitate to go to court to protect our constitutional rights during this time and well into the future.”

At the White House Rose Garden on Monday night, President Trump made his threats to deploy the military to end any violent protests that have cropped up across the United States if governors are unable to establish “an overwhelming law enforcement presence.”

“I am your president of law and order,” Trump said. “As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property.”

His remarks were followed with a walk down to St. John’s Church, a D.C. church that had been set ablaze the night before, to take photos while holding a bible — his path cleared moments earlier by police using rubber bullets and tear gas to remove peaceful protestors.

President Trump does have the authority to deploy the military domestically under the Insurrection Act of 1807 — a loophole of sorts to get around the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 that bars the deployment of the military within the nation — but it comes with limitations.

A formal proclamation is needed from the President to bypass Congress and invoke the Insurrection Act, thus giving citizens time to disperse.

As of Tuesday morning, he has not done that nor have any federal troops been deployed. Over 17,000 members of the National Guard have been sent to 23 states and Washington D.C. to support local police.

Attorney General James, who is already investigating how police officers are responding to the protests around New York, previously sued the Trump administration over the border wall between the United States and Mexico, unlawful regulations restricting coronavirus-based paid sick leave, and the Trusted Traveler ban.