WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and 30 Democratic members of the Committee today issued the following joint statement after Secretary of Defense Mark Esper refused to appear before the committee and explain the recent use of the military in response to peaceful protesters in the District of Columbia.
Representatives Susan Davis (D-CA), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Jim Cooper (D-TN), Joe Courtney (D-CT), John Garamendi (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Anthony Brown (D-MD), Ro Khanna (D-CA), William Keating (D-MA), Filemon Vela (D-TX), Andy Kim (D-NJ), Kendra Horn (D-OK), Gil Cisneros (D-CA), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Jason Crow (D-CO), Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Deb Haaland (D-NM), Jared Golden (D-ME), Lori Trahan (D-MA), Elaine Luria (D-VA), and Anthony Brindisi (D-NY) joined Chairman Smith in condemning the Administration’s lack of accountability.
“Events of this past week involving the Department of Defense and the federal government’s response to the nation-wide protests have been deeply troubling and leave a number of pressing questions unanswered.
"We requested Secretary Esper and Chairman Milley to come before our committee next week and offer public testimony answering these critical questions. We have been informed that they will not appear as requested. This is unacceptable. We insist that they appear before our committee. Our military leaders are sworn to be accountable to the people of this country, and Congress is constitutionally responsible for oversight. They must appear and testify on these crucial matters in order to meet that responsibility."
“Following protests this week, President Trump stated, ‘If a city or state refuses to take the actions…I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.’ Americans deserve to know if the Department was consulted on this potential decision. Would such action ever be acceptable to our leaders at the Pentagon?
“Then, Americans who were peacefully exercising their first amendment right were dispersed from Lafayette Park by armed federal law enforcement with support from the National Guard just so the President could hold a photo opportunity.
“What role has the Department played in these recent events? Were active duty service members deployed against American citizens? How do our leaders at the Pentagon view the role that they have played to date and what role, if any, do they believe the military should play in domestic law enforcement in the future? Who made the decision to deploy outside state National Guard units into the District of Columbia? Why were active duty Army units from Fort Bragg and Fort Carson flown into staging areas around the city, what was their task and purpose?
“Secretary Esper and Chairman Milley must testify on-the-record before the committee. The House Armed Services Committee made the request and it has been denied. That is simply unacceptable. It is the constitutional duty of the House Armed Services Committee to perform rigorous oversight, just as it is the constitutional duty of the Administration to be accountable to the American people.
“Until we hear from Secretary Esper and General Milley in a public setting, it should not be difficult for the Department to provide the members of the committee with an informal briefing on the activity this week. Such a briefing was scheduled for today, but the Department pulled out at the last minute. As we head into a weekend with protests planned across the country, this briefing to Members of Congress was vitally important to discuss the Department’s plan to ensure the safety of Americans exercising their right to protest and service members working to keep the peace. Apparently, the Trump Administration believes they have no obligation to explain their actions to Congress or respect our constitutional system of checks and balances.
“We look forward to receiving a briefing from the Department no later than Monday, June 8, and receiving public, on-the-record testimony from Secretary Esper and General Milley shortly thereafter.”