Trump Hasn’t Invoked the Insurrection Act Yet, but He Has Certainly Threatened To


Jan. 11 2021, Updated 3:09 p.m. ET

did trump sign insurrection act
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Be careful what you believe on social media: Contrary to many Twitter posts, there’s no evidence that President Donald Trump signed the Insurrection Act or invoked its powers.

So says Newsweek, which fact-checked the viral claims that the lame-duck president signed the act on Saturday, Jan. 9, or Sunday, Jan. 10. 

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“I’m hearing the INSURRECTION ACT has been signed,” reads one Twitter post, which has been liked more than 15,000 times. “MILITARY IS THE ONLY WAY.”

Another widely shared tweet reads, “Insurrection Act was signed last night by President Trump, according to multiple sources.”

That said, Trump has threatened to use the Insurrection Act before. Here’s what to know about the 1800s-era law…

Trump would have had to issue a proclamation before invoking the Insurrection Act.

donald trump
Source: Getty Images

Citing a Congressional Research Service research paper from 2006, the Newsweek points out that Trump would first have to make a formal proclamation ordering insurgents to disperse before he can use any of the Insurrection Act powers.

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Then, if the insurgents don’t comply with that order to disperse, Trump would then have the power to deploy the military to enforce the law. Because Trump hasn’t made that proclamation and because there’s no evidence to support the Insurrection Act reports, Newsweek declares the claims false.

The Insurrection Act hasn’t been invoked since 1992.

According to TIME, the Insurrection Act of 1807 empowers the U.S. president to, under certain circumstances, deploy the National Guard or the military to enforce laws.

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“Whenever there is an insurrection in any State against its government, the President may, upon the request of its legislature or of its governor if the legislature cannot be convened, call into Federal service such of the militia of the other States, in the number requested by that State, and use such of the armed forces, as he considers necessary to suppress the insurrection,” the U.S. Code reads.

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U.S. presidents have invoked the Insurrection Act dozens of times over the years, especially during riots over civil rights in the 1960s, as the Congressional Research Service reports. Its last invocation seems to have been in 1992, CRS says, when riots broke out in Los Angeles after white police officers were acquitted of beating Rodney King, a Black man.

Trump threatened to deploy the military in June 2020.

In a speech at the White House in June 2020, Trump said he would “deploy the United States military” if city or state governments didn’t suppress the violent demonstrations over the murder of George Floyd.

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“If a city or 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 at the time, adding that he had authorized the deployment of thousands of troops to Washington D.C.

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D.C. City Council was warned about Trump’s possible Insurrection Act invocation.

According to BuzzFeed News, the D.C. Attorney General’s office shared a two-page memo, titled “Potential Paths of Federal Incursion Into District Law Enforcement,” with the D.C. City Council in a closed briefing on Monday, Jan. 4, two days before rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol.

In the memo, the D.C. Attorney’s General office broached the sociability that Trump could invoke the Insurrection Act to take control of the city’s Metropolitan Police Department, three members present at the briefing told BuzzFeed News.

Ultimately, the site reports, Trump did not invoke the act.

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