Lafayette Park was not cleared for Trump photo-op, watchdog finds

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A new government report has chipped away at the long-held narrative that then-President Donald Trump ordered federal police to clear protesters from Lafayette Park last summer so he could walk to a D.C. church for a photo-op with a Bible.

The report, released Wednesday by the Interior Department's inspector general, said U.S. Park Police did not clear the park and nearby area of protesters on June 1, 2020, for Trump. Instead, the Park Police learned of Trump's interest in the site several hours after they had already started plans to clear the area to put up new fencing.

"The evidence we obtained did not support a finding that the USPP cleared the park to allow the president to survey the damage and walk to St. John's Church," the report said.

The Park Police learned of Trump's plans hours after the contractor had arrived to begin the installation.

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The watchdog report also concluded that Park Police officers acted within their authority to begin clearing Lafayette Square before the city's then-7 p.m. curfew.

“Thank you to the Department of the Interior Inspector General for Completely and Totally exonerating me in the clearing of Lafayette Park!” Trump said in a statement.

“As we have said all along, and it was backed up in today’s highly detailed and professionally written report, our fine Park Police made the decision to clear the park to allow a contractor to safely install antiscale fencing to protect from Antifa rioters, radical BLM protestors, and other violent demonstrators,” he added.

Trump was widely condemned for the June 1 incident, during which law enforcement officers used chemical irritants to disperse protesters that had gathered at Lafayette Park, located outside the White House. The crowd of more than 1,000 demonstrators had been protesting the murder of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man who was killed by a white police officer.

After the area was cleared, Trump, members of his family, White House staff, and members of his Cabinet walked across the park to St. John's Church to survey the damage from a fire that had been set a day earlier.

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While Wednesday's report took the blame off Trump, it did point the finger at William Barr, finding that the then-attorney general urged officials to speed up the removal process once Trump's walk-through was set.

Last month, lawyers for the Justice Department urged a federal judge to dismiss any lawsuits against Trump, Barr, or other officials stemming from the clearing of demonstrators. They argued that Trump and Barr were protected from civil lawsuits over any police action that was taken to protect the then-sitting president.

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Tags: News, Donald Trump, Protests, Justice Department, George Floyd, National Park Service, Churches, DC, lawsuit, inspector general

Original Author: Barnini Chakraborty

Original Location: Lafayette Park was not cleared for Trump photo-op, watchdog finds

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