In an interview, Taylor said his understanding was that Trump wanted to make the announcement during the State of the Union address.
« This is what the White House staff warned us about, which is why we rushed to the White House, » said Taylor, who is best known for writing an anonymous editorial in The New York Times in 2018 describing a « silent resistance » in the Trump administration.
To use the military on American soil, Trump wanted to invoke the Insurrection Act, which allows the president to deploy the military in a law enforcement role, Taylor writes in the book, something troops are normally prohibited from. Trump and other presidents, including Barack Obama and Joe Biden, have sent the military to the border, but they’ve mostly been relegated to supporting federal agents handling the influx.
The issue of using troops for law enforcement made headlines in the summer of 2020 when Trump threatened to invoke the act to send the military to quell protests against racial injustice and police violence in the american cities. But in February 2019, when Trump considered using troops against migrants, such a move was all but unheard of. Taylor writes that the act’s deployment « is the closest thing to ‘martial law’ in our system. »
“Until the Trump administration, the proposal looked like the plot of a bad fiction novel,” writes Taylor. “But Donald Trump was a few sentences away from realizing it. I was there. »
Taylor got the call about Trump’s plan on Feb. 4, 2019, he writes, a day before the speech. He and his boss Kirstjen Nielsen, then Secretary of Homeland Security, rushed to the White House to stop him.
“This is fucking crazy,” Trump told them of the migrants during a conversation in the Map Room of the White House. « We can’t let them in. »
The president gave Nielsen and Taylor permission to close US ports and « send them back. » Then, « he told us to use the military, which I took as a nod to the Insurrection Act that aides had warned me about, » Taylor writes.
That day, Nielsen and Taylor spent « hours » trying to get White House staff and the counsel’s office to intervene.
« If he invoked the Insurrection Act, he would set a dangerous precedent, » writes Taylor. « It was not known where Trump might have used it next. »
Taylor and Nielsen eventually returned to the president with an alternative: They were working with Mexican authorities to contain the situation, so there was no need for « extraordinary measures. » Their work « buyed him just enough time to throw him off the idea, » writes Taylor.
The State of the Union « was finalized without any reference to the Insurrection Act, » he says in the book.
Steven Cheung, Trump’s spokesman, said Taylor is « a scumbag. His book belongs in the discount basket of the fiction section or should be repurposed as toilet paper.
Nielsen did not respond to a request for comment. Another former senior DHS official, who was granted anonymity to speak about a sensitive discussion, said he did not recall any plans to invoke the Insurrection Act at the time. The person said Trump often made suggestions to get his staff to explain their views, but the idea that the president was close to invoking that law is « fantastic. »
During the subsequent uproar over using the Insurrection Act against protesters in 2020, Jim Mattis, who resigned as Trump’s defense secretary in 2018, made rare public comments condemning the idea, which never came to fruition. .
“I have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution. I never imagined that troops who swore the same oath would be ordered under any circumstances to violate the constitutional rights of their fellow citizens,” Mattis wrote in The Atlantic. “We must reflect on any notion of our cities as a ‘battlespace’ « .