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Donald Trump speaks to crowd before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (AP) Donald Trump speaks to crowd before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (AP)

Donald Trump speaks to crowd before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher June 4, 2021

No evidence that Trump invoked federal Insurrection Act. And he’s not still president.

If Your Time is short

  • There’s no evidence that Trump invoked the law during his final days in office.

  • He is not president anymore.

A post hotly circulated on Facebook claims the country is in the control of Donald Trump and the military because Trump, less than a week before his successor’s inauguration, invoked something known as the Insurrection Act.

The Facebook user claims "a high-up and trusted military source" confirmed that Trump signed the law on Jan. 14, giving himself two more months as president; that the military extended that by two months to May 20; and "most likely extended again by the military who is now in control…. I am assured that he still is president."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

It’s a new take on a previously discredited claim. There’s no evidence Trump invoked the Insurrection Act. And he is not still president. 

President Joe Biden’s inauguration occurred Jan. 20, and Trump stopped being president at noon that day.

The Insurrection Act, signed by President Thomas Jefferson in 1807, empowers the president, in limited circumstances, to deploy the military and federalize National Guard troops to suppress certain situations including civil disorder, insurrection or rebellion.

The act has been used to send the armed forces to quell civil disturbances a number of times during U.S. history. It was most recently invoked during the 1992 Los Angeles riots after four white police officers were acquitted in the roadside beating of a Black man, Rodney King.

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But there’s nothing in the law that would allow a president to extend his term.

"The Insurrection Act in no way gives an outgoing president additional time in office. It only authorizes the president to use the military to assist states against insurrection upon their request, to enforce federal law during times of unrest and to help enforce federal constitutional rights," said Scott Anderson, a governance studies expert at the Brookings Institution, citing Title 10 of the U.S. Code. "All three of those authorizations require a proclamation first, and none allow the president to use the military in a way contrary to federal law, including by subverting the results of a legal federal election."

During Trump’s final days as president, false claims emerged on Facebook that he had invoked the Insurrection Act and would be inaugurated again as president. There was no evidence that Trump had invoked it, or that he had issued the requisite proclamation "ordering the insurgents to disperse."

"Every prior president to invoke the Insurrection Act has complied with this requirement," Anderson said. "Trump never issued such a proclamation so, regardless of what he did or did not sign on January 14th, he did not take the steps necessary to invoke the Insurrection Act."

Syracuse University law professor Mark Nevitt, whose specialties include constitutional and national security law, said there is no evidence that the National Guard has been federalized, or the military has been activated under Insurrection Act authorities. 

"President Biden is currently the commander in chief and Lloyd Austin is the secretary of defense; they have legal authority over the military," he said.

We rate the post Pants on Fire.

Our Sources

Facebook, post, May 27, 2021

PolitiFact, "Fact-checking claims about the Insurrection Act, martial law after Capitol riot," Jan. 11, 2021 

PolitiFact, "There’s no evidence Trump has invoked the Insurrection Act," Jan. 11, 2021

PolitiFact, "Can Donald Trump really invoke the Insurrection Act to send troops into states?", June 2, 2020

U.S. Code, 10 USC 253: Interference with State and Federal law, June 3, 2021

U.S. Code, 10 USC 252: Use of militia and armed forces to enforce Federal authority, June 3, 2021

U.S. Code, 10 USC 251: Federal aid for State governments, June 3, 2021

Email, Scott Anderson, visiting fellow in governance studies, Brookings Institution, June 4, 2021

Email, Syracuse University law professor Mark Nevitt, June 4, 2021

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No evidence that Trump invoked federal Insurrection Act. And he’s not still president.

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