Defense Chief, Top General Refuse to Testify Before House Panel

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Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, have refused to appear before the House Armed Services Committee to testify in public on the U.S. military’s role in domestic protests, according to two aides familiar with the planning.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said earlier this week he wanted the two Pentagon leaders to testify at an open hearing before the panel next week about the role they “envision the U.S. military playing” in dealing with protests in U.S. cities.

Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images
Defense Secretary Mark Esper

So far, Esper and Milley have declined to appear before the panel, which oversees military operations and policy, and haven’t offered alternatives, the aides said. Smith and other lawmakers have been questioning the possible use of the Insurrection Act, which allows the president in rare circumstances to use active-duty military on U.S. streets during civil unrest.

Smith said President Donald Trump’s threat to invoke the Insurrection Act was escalating matters as protests over the death of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis police custody have swept the country. Treating the protests as “a war, I think, is an enormous mistake,” Smith told reporters on press call Tuesday.

The White House usually has to green light testimony by these top leaders. The Pentagon had no immediate comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Roxana Tiron in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at; Robin Meszoly at

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