Law enforcement officials were not directed to clear Lafayette Park of protesters so that then-President Donald Trump could stage a “photo-op” at St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C. last June, according to a report from the Department of the Interior’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
On Wednesday, the Interior Department released the report which examined the “actions the U.S. Park Police (USPP) took to disperse protesters in and around Lafayette Park in Washington, DC, on June 1, 2020.”
“Protests began in and around Lafayette Park on May 29, 2020. On May 30, the USPP and U.S. Secret Service established a unified command to coordinate the law enforcement response to the protests. From May 30 to 31, at least 49 USPP officers were injured while policing the protests, and Federal and private property was vandalized,” the review said.
It continued, “On the morning of June 1, the Secret Service procured antiscale fencing to establish a more secure perimeter around Lafayette Park that was to be delivered and installed that same day. The USPP, in coordination with the Secret Service, determined that it was necessary to clear protesters from the area in and around the park to enable the contractor’s employees to safely install the fence.”
The report noted that the operation to clear the park “began at 6:23 p.m. and was completed by 6:50 p.m.” And that “Shortly thereafter, at 7:01 p.m., President Trump walked from the White House through Lafayette Park to St. John’s Church.”
In a key finding, the report said, “We found that the USPP had the authority and discretion to clear Lafayette Park and the surrounding areas on June 1. 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. Instead, the evidence we reviewed showed that the USPP cleared the park to allow the contractor to safely install the antiscale fencing in response to destruction of property and injury to officers occurring on May 30 and 31.”
Additionally, it said that the USPP “did not know about the President’s potential movement until mid- to late afternoon on June 1—hours after it had begun developing its operational plan.”
This evening President Trump walked from the White House to the Historic St. John’s Church that was damaged during overnight violence. #GeorgeFloydProtests #StJohnsChurch #POTUS pic.twitter.com/f23PanThl3
— HARRISFAULKNER (@HARRISFAULKNER) June 2, 2020
At the time, Democrats blasted the Trump administration last year and demanded answers as they claimed protesters were removed from the park so Trump could pose for a photo.
The inspector general’s office also faulted the USPP for “weaknesses in communication and coordination may have contributed to confusion during the operation and the use of tactics that appeared inconsistent with the incident commander’s operational plan.”
Then-Attorney General William Barr said in a press conference in June 2020, “I did not know that [Trump] was going to do that until later in the day after our plans were well underway to move the perimeter.”
“So there was no correlation between our tactical plan of moving the perimeter out by one block and the president’s going over to the church,” he added.
Trump thanked the inspector general’s office in a statement on Wednesday for “Completely and Totally exonerating me in the clearing of Lafayette Park!”
“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 who are causing chaos and death to our cities,” he added.
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