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

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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.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.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. Meanwhile, former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund also said he requested that the National Guard be placed on standby in the days before the riot but that House and Senate security officials turned him down.Invocations of the Insurrection Act in the past have occurred when a governor allows for violence or infringement of rights to occur or can't control the situation, Hoffmeister said.As Hoffmeister put it, usually someone was "just sitting back and watching," but on Jan. 6, "It was the president who was sitting back and watching.""What's so dramatically different now of course is that the person who would decide to utilize the Insurrection Act is the very guy who is precipitating the violence," Banks added.While the law is broad and gives the president discretion in its use, Banks said there are certain conditions that would need to be met before a state's National Guard or active duty military were deployed under the act.If Trump were plotting to invoke the act in some effort to prevent the transition of power to Biden, he'd have to declare it, as part of the provision in the act requiring essentially a public cease and desist order for the insurrectionists, Banks said."He couldn't do this surreptitiously.

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