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

False posts swirled Sunday that Trump invoked the Insurrection Act. Could it have been used during Capitol riot? How does it differ from martial law?

Politics

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.

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It was last invoked in 1992 by George H.W. Bush during the unrest in Los Angeles after the acquittal of police officers who beat Rodney King.

What is the Insurrection Act?

The Insurrection Act gives the president authority to call on military and National Guard forces to suppress an insurrection if a state requests it, if there is an insurrection that makes it impossible to enforce federal law, or if there is an insurrection or domestic violence that deprives others of their Constitutional rights.

The Act also requires the president to issue a proclamation demanding those participating in the insurrection disperse.

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.