The dramatic escalation came a week after the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who had been pinned down with a knee to the neck by a police officer -- leading to the worst civil unrest in decades in New York, Los Angeles and dozens of other American cities.
After being criticized for his silence on the worsening crisis, Trump struck a martial tone in a nationwide address from the White House as police fired tear gas on protesters outside.
"I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property," he said.
He slammed the previous night's unrest in Washington as a "total disgrace" and called on governors to act quickly and forcefully to "dominate the streets."
"If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them," he said, denouncing "acts of domestic terror".
After his address, protesters outside the White House were cleared so the president could walk across the street to the two-century old St Johns church, hit with graffiti and partially damaged by fire during unrest on Sunday.
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Bystander video showed Floyd pleading to be let up and saying repeatedly that he couldn't breathe as police officer Derek Chauvin pinned Floyd to the ground for nearly nine minutes. Two other officers applied pressure with their knees to Floyd's back.
Chauvin, who is white and has been fired from the Minneapolis police department, was hit with third-degree murder and manslaughter charges last week.
But Dr. Michael Baden, who took part in the independent autopsy at the behest of Floyd's family, said that the two other officers' actions also caused Floyd to stop breathing.
"We can see after a little bit less than four minutes that Mr. Floyd is motionless, lifeless," Baden said, adding he found no underlying health conditions in Floyd that caused his death.