Pentagon-Trump clash breaks open over military and protests

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FILE - In this June 1, 2020, file photo President Donald Trump departs the White House to visit outside St. John's Church in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is not only drawing criticism from his usual political foes but also facing backtalk from his defense secretary, his former Pentagon chief and a growing number of fellow Republicans.

A day after Defense Secretary Mark Esper shot down Trump's idea of using active-duty troops to quell protests across the United States, retired four-star Gen. John Allen joined the chorus of former military leaders going after the president. And Republican Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Esper's remarks were “overdue” and she didn't know if she would support Trump in November.

Although Esper's declaration was followed by the Pentagon reversing course on pulling part of the 82nd Airborne Division off standby outside Washington, the rising criticism underscored an extraordinary clash between the U.S. military and its commander in chief. On Thursday, an official said the troops in question from the 82nd were going home to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, after all.

Both Trump and Esper also drew stinging, rare public criticism from Trump's first defense secretary, Jim Mattis, in the most public pushback of Trump's presidency from the men he put at the helm of the world's most powerful military.