“Fearing a Trump Repeat, Jan. 6 Panel Considers Changes to Insurrection Act”


In the days before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, some of President Donald J. Trump’s most extreme allies and members of right-wing militia groups urged him to use his power as commander in chief to unleash the military to help keep him in office.

Now, as the House committee investigating last year’s riot uncovers new evidence about the lengths to which Mr. Trump was willing to go to cling to power, some lawmakers on the panel have quietly begun discussions about rewriting the Insurrection Act, the 1807 law that gives presidents wide authority to deploy the military within the United States to respond to a rebellion.

The discussions are preliminary, and debate over the act has been fraught in the aftermath of Mr. Trump’s presidency. Proponents envision a doomsday scenario in which a rogue future president might try to use the military to stoke — rather than put down — an insurrection, or to abuse protesters. But skeptics worry about depriving a president of the power to quickly deploy armed troops in the event of an uprising, as presidents did during the Civil War and the civil rights era.

While Mr. Trump never invoked the law, he threatened to do so in 2020 to have the military crack down on crowds protesting the police killing of George Floyd. Stephen Miller, one of his top advisers, also proposed putting it into effect to turn back migrants at the southwestern border, an idea that was rejected by the defense secretary at the time, Mark T. Esper.

And as Mr. Trump grasped for ways to overturn his defeat in the 2020 presidential election, some hard-right advisers encouraged him to declare martial law and deploy U.S. troops to seize voting machines. In the run-up to the Jan. 6 attack, members of right-wing militia groups also encouraged Mr. Trump to invoke the law, believing that he was on the brink of giving them approval to descend on Washington with weapons to fight on his behalf.

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