On Monday, Trump announced he would send US troops to the Mexican border to stop a caravan of migrants walking to the US from Honduras.
On Friday, Defense Secretary James Mattis authorized the deployment of more troops to the US-Mexico border.
There's a law that dates back more than a century known as "posse comitatus" that bars active-duty US troops from domestic law enforcement without authorization. Other laws and regulations have further clarified that troops can't participate in activities such as making arrests and conducting searches, according to a Congressional Research Service analysis.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told Fox News on Friday that the military has "no intention" of shooting at anyone in the caravan, but she noted that officers of her agency and troops alike have the right to defend themselves.
What the Troops Cannot Do
- Arrest people
- Seize drugs
- Conduct searches
What the Troops Can Do
- Planning assistance
- Provide engineering support with temporary barriers, barricades and fencing
- Provide aviation support to move US Customs and Border Protection personnel
- Provide medical teams to triage, treat and prepare for commercial transport of patients
- Operate command control facilities
- Erect temporary housing and provide personal protective equipment for CBP personnel
Past presidents haven't tested these boundaries and therefore courts haven't weighed in. The Trump administration so far has avoided questions about how exactly it interprets these restrictions.
A separate administration official on Friday told CNN that based on items laid out in a request from the Department of Homeland Security, the request would likely result in more than 1,000 troops being sent, but there's a likelihood that number could eventually be pared back.
- Number of troops
- Whether the troops are armed
- Criteria in which they can use their weapons
- Who's paying the bill
“The Mattis Touch”
Welcome to the world of Jim Mattis, the man whose job it is to turn President Trump's impulsive orders into something the military is happy to salute.
The latest edict: Trump’s order to send active-duty troops to the Mexico border to repel the coming “onslaught” of Central American refugees seeking asylum in the United States.
“Perhaps most importantly, these troops will be plastered all over the media. It shows the administration is doing something about this issue. And by sending in the military, it shows it is a top national priority,” he said. “This president gets that optics matter to the American people and his base. Sending troops means he is taking action — the biggest action he can.”
When Trump shocked the Pentagon with his plan to scrap “expensive war games” between the U.S. and South Korea, Mattis figured out that as long as they made a show of canceling major exercises with dangerous sounding names, regular training could go on unaffected safely under the radar of Trump and the North Koreans.
When Trump — impressed by the over-the-top Bastille Day parade he witnessed in Paris — ordered his own military extravaganza down Pennsylvania Avenue, Mattis saluted smartly and then gradually pared back while finding a way to link it to the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
It’s notable that no Pentagon officials would comment on the record for this report, out of fear that another account of how Mattis is managing could infuriate Trump and end Mattis' tenure as Defense secretary.
Already there are rumors that Trump is considering replacing Mattis after the midterm elections with someone more in line with his thinking.
Both Mattis and Trump have denied those rumors, yet another sign of Mattis' unique ability stay on the president’s good side, while saving him from his most capricious ideas.
Call it “The Mattis Touch.”
More waves have formed and some reports have the total at 14,000 or more headed to the US.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock