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President Trump. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

More than 280 former senior U.S. diplomats and military leaders came down on President Trump, saying the military has "no role" when Americans are exercising their right to free speech, according to a letter obtained by Foreign Policy.

The big picture: Trump has been battling with the Pentagon this week over whether to deploy troops to cities across the U.S. to squash protests that have followed the death of George Floyd. The response from former military leaders was swift and harsh, a rare instance in political matters.

What they're saying:

  • "We called out violations of human rights and the authoritarian regimes that deployed their military against their own citizens," the former high-ranking officials wrote. "We condemn all criminal acts against persons and property, but cannot agree that responding to these acts is beyond the capabilities of local and state authorities.” 
  • “There is no role for the U.S. military in dealing with American citizens exercising their constitutional right to free speech, however uncomfortable that speech may be for some."

Background: This week, Trump was rebuffed by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper over the physical force and pepper balls used to disperse crowds from outside the White House so the president could snap a photo.

Yes, but: Elected officials and police departments across the country are reporting less violence and fewer arrests than earlier in the week. Cities have even abandoned their curfews and emergency declarations.

Go deeper: D.C. mayor asks Trump to withdraw military and federal law enforcement

Go deeper

U.S. cancels 1,000 visas for Chinese nationals deemed security risks

Photo: Teh Eng Koon/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. has revoked more than 1,000 visas of Chinese nationals as of this week under a proclamation by President Trump aimed at student researchers suspected of having links to China's military.

Driving the news: The State Department said in an emailed statement late Wednesday that the policy, which took effect June 1, "safeguards U.S. national security, preventing the theft of American technologies, intellectual property, and information to develop advanced military capabilities" and that it has "broad authority" to revoke visas.

Biden, troop levels and the 9/11 legacy

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Getty Images photos: Win McNamee and Drew Angerer

Despite pressure from the left, Joe Biden is making it clear that if he wins, he won't just pull up stakes from Afghanistan and the region.

Driving the news: Biden made news on Thursday when he told Stars and Stripes that he supports a sustained U.S. military footprint of up to 1,500-2,000 on the ground — primarily for special operations against ISIS and other terror threats — in the war that began after the 9/11 terrorist attacks 19 years ago.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Sep 9, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Concerns about "armed insurgency" in the U.S. are on the rise

Data: FBI; Chart: Axios Visuals

Growing waves of street violence between armed groups — combined with evidence of record gun sales — has some experts worried the U.S. could be facing an "incipient insurgency."

Why it matters: Despite its high murder rate compared to other rich countries, organized political violence has been rare in the U.S. in recent decades. But growing clashes in the streets, combined with an election that may remain uncertain for weeks, forecasts a turbulent fall — and beyond.