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Professor William C. Banks Helps Explain Insurrection Act for USA Today

Posted on Tuesday 1/12/2021
William C. Banks

What is the Insurrection Act and how could Trump use it? Here's what to know

(USA Today | Jan. 11, 2021) False social media posts swirled late Sunday that President Donald Trump in the wake of the U.S. Capitol riots had invoked the Insurrection Act, a law that allows the president to deploy the military to quell rebellion.

Tweets sharing images of military personnel in Washington continued to spread Monday morning and became a trending term on Twitter. However, Trump has not invoked the law.

The law, which has existed in various forms since the time of George Washington and in its current state since the Civil War, allows the president to dispatch the military or federalize the National Guard in states that are unable to put down an insurrection or are defying federal law ...

... William Banks, a Syracuse University College of Law Board of Advisors Distinguished Professor, said that when thinking about the Insurrection Act, it's important to remember one of the most basic principles of the United States' founding: that the military not be involved in civilian affairs.

"The Insurrection Act lays into U.S. law an exception to that background principle," Banks said.

In most cases, a state would want to rely on National Guard troops in situations of unrest. The Insurrection Act is generally reserved for when "things are really bad," Banks said ...

... Hoffmeister and Banks said, however, there was no need for Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act on Jan. 6. given the federal government's control of the district's National Guard and federal law enforcement. Invoking the Act would have further allowed Trump to send active-duty military to the district when he already in effect had control over its National Guard and federal police ...

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