Trump wanted to deploy 10,000 troops in Washington D.C., official says

President Donald Trump told his advisers at one point this past week he wanted 10,000 troops to deploy to the Washington D.C. area to halt civil unrest over the killing of a black man by Minneapolis police, according to a senior U.S. official.

The account of Trump's demand during a heated Oval Office conversation on Monday shows how close the president may have come to fulfilling his threat to deploy active-duty troops, despite opposition from Pentagon leadership.

At the meeting, Defence Secretary Mark Esper, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, and Attorney General William Barr recommended against such a deployment, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The meeting was "contentious," the official added.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House escorted by the Secret Service after appearing outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump holds a Bible while visiting St. John's Church across from the White House after the area was cleared of people protesting the death of George Floyd June 1, 2020, in Washington, DC. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks through a colonnade of police in riot gear while walking to the White House from St. John's Church after the area was cleared of people protesting the death of George Floyd June 1, 2020, in Washington, DC. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks with US Attorney General William Barr (L), US Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper (C), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley (R), and others from the White House to visit St. John's Church after the area was cleared of people protesting the death of George Floyd June 1, 2020, in Washington, DC. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Secret Service in riot gear stand guard while US President Donald Trump visits St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds a Bible while visiting St. John's Church across from the White House after the area was cleared of people protesting the death of George Floyd June 1, 2020, in Washington, DC. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Secret Service in riot gear stand guard while US President Donald Trump visits St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds a Bible while visiting St. John's Church across from the White House after the area was cleared of people protesting the death of George Floyd June 1, 2020, in Washington, DC. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump leaves the White House on foot to go to St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible as he gestures, alongside US Attorney General William Barr (L), White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien (2nd-L) and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House escorted by the Secret Service after appearing outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 01: U.S. President Donald Trump (C) waves to journalists as he returns to the White House after posing for photographs in front of St. John's Episcopal Church June 01, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump held up a bible while standing in front of the church, which was partially burned during violent protests the night before. Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump encouraged U.S. governors to be more aggressive against violent protesters following several nights of nationwide violence in response to the death of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis police. “You have to dominate or you'll look like a bunch of jerks, you have to arrest and try people," he was reported saying during a call from the basement White House Situation Room. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House escorted by the Secret Service after appearing outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House escorted by the Secret Service after appearing outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 01: Members of the Secret Service counter assault team return to the White House after U.S. President Donald Trump posed for photographs in front of St. John's Episcopal Church June 01, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump held up a bible while standing in front of the church, which was partially burned during violent protests the night before. Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump encouraged U.S. governors to be more aggressive against violent protesters following several nights of nationwide violence in response to the death of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis police. “You have to dominate or you'll look like a bunch of jerks, you have to arrest and try people," he was reported saying during a call from the basement White House Situation Room. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House escorted by the Secret Service after appearing outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House after spending time in front of St. John's Episcopal church in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020 as police officers stand guard amid protests. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) / ALTERNATE CROP (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House escorted by the Secret Service after appearing outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds a bible as he walks through Lafayette Park after spending time in front of St. John's Episcopal church in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) / ALTERNATE CROP (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds up a Bible outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump leaves the White House on foot to go to St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump leaves the White House on foot to go to St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday after days of anti-racism protests against police brutality that have erupted into violence. The White House announced that the president would make remarks imminently after he has been criticized for not publicly addressing in the crisis in recent days. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
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Trump has since appeared satisfied with deployments by the National Guard, the option recommended by the Pentagon and a more traditional tool for dealing with domestic crises. Pentagon leaders scrambled to call governors with requests to send Guard forces to Washington. Additional federal law enforcement was mobilised too.

But also key for Trump appears to have been Esper's move to preposition -- but not deploy -- active-duty soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division and other units in the Washington D.C. area in case they were needed. Those troops have since departed.

"Having active-duty forces available but not in the city was enough for the president for the time," the official said.

Trump's bid to militarise the U.S. response to the protests has triggered a rare outpouring of condemnation from former U.S. military officials, including Trump's first defence secretary, Jim Mattis, and retired four-star generals who normally try to steer clear of politics.

Those comments reflect deep unease inside and outside the Pentagon with Trump's willingness to inject the U.S. military into a domestic race relations crisis following the killing of George Floyd, 46, who died on May 25 after a Minneapolis policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Floyd's death has led to a wave of protests and national soul-searching over the country's legacy of violence and the mistreatment of African Americans and other minorities.

It has also led some Pentagon leaders of colour to issue unprecedented statements about their experiences dealing with issues of race in the U.S. military.

Esper's future?

Esper publicly voiced his opposition on Wednesday to invoke the Insurrection Act to deploy active-duty forces -- remarks to reporters that did not go over well with either Trump or his top aides.

The senior U.S. official said Trump yelled at Esper after that news conference.

As speculation swirled over whether the president might fire him, White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said Trump "remains confident in Secretary Esper."

"Secretary Esper has been instrumental in securing our nation's streets and ensuring Americans have peace and confidence in the security of their places of business, places of worship, and their homes," McEnany said in a statement.

Esper issued a memo on Tuesday reminding Defence Department personnel "we commit to protecting the American people's right to freedom of speech and to peaceful assembly."

Milley issued a similar statement reminding troops of their oath to the U.S. Constitution, which protects the right to peaceful protests.

Those statements by Milley and Esper came after they took fierce criticism for using military planning terms like "battlespace" to describe American protest sites during a conference call with state governors that Trump hosted on Monday, a recording of which leaked.

At the time, the Pentagon was concerned that Trump might deploy active-duty troops if the governors did not sufficiently employ the National Guard, the official said.

Esper and Milley have also faced criticism for accompanying Trump for a photo opportunity outside a church near the White House on Monday after police cleared the area by firing smoke grenades and chemical irritant "pepper balls" and charging into peaceful protesters.

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