WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Top officials from the Pentagon faced questioning from Congress Thursday about what happened in front of the White House last month when crowds protesting police brutality were moved out of the way so President Donald Trump could take a photo at a nearby church.
“No active-duty military units engaged protesters,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said.
He added that, while National Guard troops were there on June 1, they stood by in case they were needed.
“That the guard did not advance on the crowd, that the guard did not shoot rubber bullets, that the guard did not employ chemical agents of any type,” Esper said.
Adam Smith, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, wanted to know who was in charge.
“Who gave the order to clear the protests?” Smith asked.
Neither Esper nor Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair General Mark Milley could provide an answer.
“I don’t know,” Gen. Milley said.
Esper said an investigation into the events that night is nearly complete. He promised a full report on the incidents around the White House as early as next week.
This is the first time both Esper and Milley have testified before Congress since before the protests over the death of George Floyd began. Lawmakers had other questions for them as well.
Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz wanted to know more about intelligence reports that Russia might have paid the Taliban to kill US troops.
General Milley said that’s something they’re still looking into.
“Specifically, to the bounties, that is a unique piece of information that has not been corroborated,” Milley said.
“If in fact there are bounties, I’m an outraged general,” he added.