Then-President Trump holds up a Bible as he stands in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church across from the White House during the George Floyd Riots in Washington, D.C., June 1, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)
Federal officers cleared Black Lives Matter demonstrators from Lafayette Park near the White House in June 2020 in order to install fencing, not to make way for a photo-op for President Trump, the Inspector General for the Department of the Interior said on Wednesday.
Trump critics have alleged that the former president ordered the clearing of the area in order to pose for a photograph outside the adjacent St. John’s Church. Black Lives Matter activists claim that Trump ordered the clearing of demonstrators in an ongoing lawsuit against the Justice Department.
However, Inspector General Mark Greenblatt found that the federal Park Police gave the order to clear Lafayette Park hours before anyone knew Trump would be visiting the church. The police consulted then-attorney general William Barr before the action, but even Barr did not know at the time that Trump would visit the church.
“The evidence we reviewed showed that the (Park Police) cleared the park to allow a contractor to safely install anti-scale fencing in response to destruction of Federal property and injury to officers that occurred on May 30 and May 31,” Greenblatt wrote in a report released Wednesday. “Moreover, the evidence established that relevant (Park Police) officials had made those decisions and had begun implementing the operational plan several hours before they knew of a potential presidential visit to the park, which occurred later that day.”
Greenblatt noted that Barr visited the park hours prior to Trump’s arrival, and urged Park Police to speed up the process of clearing the area after Trump decided to go St. John’s Church. The commander on site told Barr that he had not known Trump would be coming, and told the former attorney general “are you freaking kidding me” when informed of the impending visit.
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