The Trump administration has said there are “no regrets” about the decision to tear gas demonstrators outside the White House last week so Donald Trump could be pictured outside a church amid nationwide protests against racism.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Monday night that neither the US president or anybody inside his administration had regrets about police actions against demonstrators last week.
“No there’s no regrets on the part of this White House because look I’d note that many of those decisions were not made here within the White House,” said Ms McEnany.
She argued that the attorney general, William Barr, had made the decision to have police clear protesters from Lafayette Square, and said: “It was AG Barr who made the decision to move the perimeter”.
The US president had already threatened to “dominate the streets” by deploying multiple federal law enforcement agencies that day, some moments before crowds were tear-gassed outside the White House.
That enabled Mr Trump to walk a small distance to St John’s Episcopal Church, where he was photographed holding a bible.
Ms McEnany argued on Monday that park police had also made the call to respond to “violence” in the area last week, despite other accounts.
“Monday night park police also had made that decision independently when they saw the violence in Lafayette Square,” said Ms McEnany.
She added that police had issued “three loud warnings” for people to leave Lafayette Square before police intervention began.
Video from the scene, however, appeared to show tear gas and rubber bullets being used against those who had gathered to protest after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
Reporters at the scene also said that the protests had been largely peaceful before police intervened ahead of Mr Trump’s church visit.
Mr Barr told CBS News on Sunday that he was not aware about Mr Trump’s staged photo opportunity but that he did authorise police actions in Lafayette Square.