A U-turn, a rush to see Trump, a day of tension and surprise

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WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Mark Esper was three blocks from the FBI’s Washington field office. He had planned to confer there at a security command center, but plans changed with an unexpected call to divert immediately.

Go the White House. President Donald Trump wanted a briefing from him and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on how the military was handling security as protests grew on the streets of the nation’s capital.

Esper’s driver pulled a U-turn in the middle of the street and flipped on the flashing lights, and they rushed to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

It was late afternoon on a Monday, June 1 — one of the more consequential days of Donald Trump’s presidency, when he was forced to reckon with rapidly swelling demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s death in the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

This account of Trump’s decision-making, based on a senior defense…

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