EXCLUSIVE: Mattis said no to lethal military force at the border. So DHS went behind his back. https://t.co/dWbeBmuSas
— Noah Shachtman (@NoahShachtman) November 21, 2018
From The Daily Beast:
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis last month objected to using military force to protect border agents on the southwest border, a knowledgeable current U.S. official and a former Defense Department official told The Daily Beast.
But Mattis didn’t object on principle. When the Department of Homeland Security requested the so-called force protection mission from the Pentagon, Mattis declined because he thought he lacked the authority to do so, the current official said.
Mattis’ objection, as of late October, was the genesis of a highly controversial White House memorandum issued late Tuesday explicitly authorizing the potential use of lethal force against the unarmed civilians of the migrant caravan.
DHS wouldn’t take no for an answer, The Daily Beast has learned. Homeland Security went above Mattis’ head in order to get Donald Trump’s chief of staff to secure for them the potentially lethal military force for which immigration hardliners in the administration had clamored.
In internal discussions with DHS, Mattis pointed to an April 4 memorandum from Trump on hardening the southern border. That memo directed cooperation between Mattis, Nielsen, and then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions on combating “illegal drugs, dangerous gang activity, and extensive illegal immigration.” (Border crossings have declined over the past decade, and are at levels historically far from “extensive.”) But the memo did not provide Mattis with explicit authorities to use military force, let alone lethal force, in aiding CBP should agents come in danger.
DHS was unwilling to leave the matter at that. The former Defense official said that Homeland Security circumvented Mattis and the Pentagon and instead went directly to the White House in an effort to secure explicit authority for this move from Trump and the West Wing.
And it appears to have worked. Kelly’s memo directly included authorization for lethal military backup. DHS and National Security Council officials did not reply to The Daily Beast’s inquiries by deadline.
More at the link.
Secretary Mattis seems to have outlasted Mira Ricardel who was running a campaign from her office as the Deputy National Security Advisor to wrong-foot Mattis with the President. Ricardel’s motivation was revenge because Mattis refused to both hire her for an undersecretary of Defense position and any of the people she pushed forward from her perch on the DOD transition team for any positions at all. However, both White House Chief of Staff Kelly and Secretary of Homeland Security Nielsen are both trying to save their own jobs, so, because Kelly works in the White House and has access to the President whenever he needs or wants it, he was able to outmaneuver Mattis on this issue. What remains to be seen is what, if anything Mattis does about it.
We also have some clarification from earlier regarding the Cabinet Order that Kelly signed:
#BREAKING Scoop at @Newsweek – President @realDonaldTrump signed the directive for the use of force and law enforcement roles for U.S. troops on the southern border. Kelly signed the directive to the Pentagon. You can read the documents here: https://t.co/OZJhJSVC1Y
— James LaPorta (@JimLaPorta) November 21, 2018
Update at 9:30 PM EDT
We now know what Secretary Mattis is doing about it! Task & Purpose has an important update to this story (emphasis mine):
THE PENTAGON — Any U.S. troops who assist civil authorities who come under attack by migrants will not be armed, Defense Secretary James Mattis clarified on Wednesday.
“There has been no call for any lethal force from DHS [Department of Homeland Security],” Mattis told reporters at a Pentagon news conference. “There is no armed element going in. I will determine it, based on what DHS asks for and a mission analysis.”
Mattis spoke the day after retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, White House Chief of Staff, signed a “cabinet order” giving active-duty U.S. troops on the southwest border new authorities to assist U.S. Border and Customs Protection personnel.
If border police came under attack, unarmed military police could respond, but they would be equipped with shields and batons, not firearms, Mattis said.
A reporter noted that Kelly’s cabinet order gives troops the authority to use lethal force, if necessary.
“I have the authority,” Mattis replied, noting that pictures of troops on the border show that they do not have weapons. “Relax. Don’t worry about it.”
We are off the looking glass and through the map!