WASHINGTON – A government report concludes that federal police did not remove protesters from Lafayette Park near the White House last summer so then-President Donald Trump could go to a nearby church for a photo op.
The report, released on Wednesday by Inspector General of the Interior Department Mark Lee Greenblatt, says the US parking police and US intelligence agencies on Jan.
Federal Police didn’t learn of Trump’s plans to walk through the park and investigate fire damage at St. John’s Episcopal Church until late afternoon – hours after they started planning the security fence and the contractor arrived in town was parked, says the report.
“The evidence we received does not support the finding that the USPP cleared the park for the president to assess the damage and go to St. John’s Church,” the report said.
Federal and military police clashed with protesters on the evening of June 1 and drove them out of the park and adjacent streets just before Trump walked through the park and stood in front of St. John’s to hold up a Bible.
Police used pepper spray and other chemical irritants to clear the park and nearby streets from protesters who had filled the area for days after the death of George Floyd in custody by the Minneapolis police.
Shortly after the report was published, Trump made a statement thanking the Inspector General “for giving me full and complete relief in the clearing of Lafayette Park!”
“As we have been saying all along, and this has been confirmed in today’s very detailed and professionally written report, our fine park police made the decision to vacate the park so that a contractor can safely install a lime protection fence to protect themselves from Antifa rioters and radical BLM to protect protesters and other violent protesters that are causing chaos and death in our cities, “he said.
According to the report, on the morning of June 1, the Secret Service procured anti-lime fences to create a safer perimeter around Lafayette Park. The fence should be delivered and installed the same day. The park police, in coordination with the Secret Service, decided that the park and the surrounding area had to be cleared so that the contractor’s employees could safely install the fence.
The report tells of an exchange where Attorney General William Barr showed up at the park and asked an unnamed park police officer, “Are these people still here when POTUS (President of the United States) comes out?”
The task force commandant said he hadn’t known until then that Trump was coming to the park from the White House. “He said he replied to the attorney general, ‘Are you kidding me?’ then he hung his head and walked away. The attorney general then left Lafayette Park. “
Six other law enforcement agencies assisted the Park Police and Secret Service in clearing and securing nearby areas. The operation began at 6:23 p.m. and was finished at 6:50 p.m. Trump walked from the White House through Lafayette Park to St. John’s Church at 7:01 p.m.
At 7:30 p.m., the contractor began assembling and installing the new fence and finished the work around 12:30 p.m. the next day, the report said.
Greenblatt concluded that the park police had the power and discretion to evacuate Lafayette Park and the surrounding areas. However, the report found that although park police used a sound-amplifying, long-range audible device to give three warnings of spread to the crowd, not everyone could hear the warnings.
The report also concluded that “the USPP and the Secret Service did not share a radio channel to communicate” and that “weaknesses in communication and coordination may have contributed to confusion during the operation”.
Michael Collins covers the White House. Follow him on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS.