Carney among governors balking at Trump request to send troops to DC

DOVER — Some states, including Delaware, are rejecting President Donald Trump’s request to send National Guard troops to Washington D.C., for a massive militarized show of force in the nation’s capital after several days of unrest over the death of George Floyd.

At least three states — New York, Virginia and Delaware — have so far rejected the request, with at least one governor citing Trump’s rhetoric about using troops to “dominate” protesters as a reason why. All of those states are led by Democrats.

Meanwhile, several other states around the country are sending troops to Washington with more expected in coming days.

The Trump administration has asked multiple states to send troops to Washington at the same time as the president derided many governors as “weak” for not using the National Guard more aggressively in their own states.

“Yesterday, we received a request for Guard assistance in Washington, from the federal government. The mission of our Guardsmen and women in Washington was not at all clear,” said Jonathan Starkey, a spokesman for Delaware Gov. John Carney, on Tuesday.

“Sending members out of state also limits the Guard’s ability to manage situations in Delaware – including their current role in our COVID-19 response. And frankly the rhetoric out of the White House seemed like it had the potential to provoke additional unrest.

“For those reasons, the governor was not comfortable with members of the Delaware Guard assisting in the response. Delaware is not sending members of the Guard to Washington at this time.”

The governor’s office has been in touch with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who is not seeking assistance from the state, Mr. Starkeynoted.

Offering his regular update on coronavirus Tuesday, Gov. Carney also spoke about the protests that have gripped the country over the past week. Like the situation in many other places, some gatherings in the First State descended into looting and rioting over the weekend.

Tensions are high both among protesters and authorities, and President Trump is not helping matters after berating the nation’s governors on a phone call Monday, Gov. Carney said.

He also commended local law enforcement for how officers have handled the situation in Delaware. Protests in the First State have centered on Wilmington and Dover.

“That’s the challenge that local officials face, is to how to calm a crowd down that doesn’t explode into violence and vandalism, and there are people that are going to be there looking for that and that’s understood,” the governor said. “And when you’re being pelted by rocks and folks are throwing stuff at you, how do you maintain appropriate control, and where is that line?

“When people cross the line, it’s a difficult decision for any law enforcement officer or leader to make and we can all second-guess that. It’s not very constructive. I think what’s constructive is to try to lower the temperature, to get people to come together to focus on the issues and challenge some of the anger and frustration into positive energy working together.”

Elsewhere, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam rejected a personal appeal from Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Monday to send thousands of the state’s National Guard members to Washington D.C., the governor’s office said. Gov. Northam said he was concerned that the Trump administration would misuse the troops to escalate tensions.

“I am not going to send our men and women in uniform — a very proud National Guard — to Washington for a photo op,” Gov. Northam said, referencing an incident Monday when police used tear gas to clear peaceful demonstrators from a park near the White House so President Trump could walk to a nearby church and pose with a Bible.

President Trump has declared himself to be the “president of law and order” and has vowed to deploy the U.S. military to America’s own cities to quell a rise of violent protests, including ransacking stores and burning police cars.

Mr. Floyd died last week after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday he was unaware of any request to send New York’s Guard to Washington but said he wouldn’t have granted such a request because they are needed at home. Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser to the governor, said 200 New York National Guard troops were requested and the decision to deny the request was made at an agency level that did not directly involve Cuomo.

Trump has been particularly critical of how officials have handled looting and violence in New York City.

“NYC, CALL UP THE NATIONAL GUARD. The lowlifes and losers are ripping you apart,” Trump tweeted Tuesday.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf was also asked to send troops but said he is still evaluating the Trump administration’s request.

“The National Guard currently has significant resources deployed across Pennsylvania. Their current priority is assisting commonwealth municipalities in their response to de-escalate violence and keep our communities safe,” said Wolf spokeswoman Lyndsay Kensinger.

Other governors have been more receptive.

Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said almost 1,500 guardsmen were coming to Washington on Tuesday from several states and more were expected Wednesday.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said his state’s troops were sent “explicitly to protect federal buildings and federal monuments.” Murphy is the only Democratic governor who has sent troops so far.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is sending 116 members of the National Guard to be stationed on the National Mall. Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci said they will be used in support of the D.C. National Guard and the U.S. Capitol Police and “are not there in any law enforcement capacity.”

Tennessee said it is sending 1,000 troops that should be on the ground no later than Saturday. Utah is sending approximately 200 National Guard troops. And about 445 Guardsmen left South Carolina on Tuesday afternoon bound for Washington, where the duration of their deployment was undetermined.

“When the South Carolina National Guard is activated, we are prepared to respond as long as needed,” Capt. Jessica Donnelly told The Associated Press.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.