Monday on CNN, chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta accused President Donald Trump of looking like a “wannabe dictator” by having the military to clear out protesters, so he could have a “photo op” in front of St. John’s Church, which was damaged in a fire set during protests on Sunday night.
Acosta said, “It was an extraordinary moment. And you know, we were standing there in the Rose Garden waiting for the president to start speaking and you could hear the explosions coming from this police and military action that was taking place on the streets of the nation’s capital to clear out these protesters from Lafayette Park so the president could have this photo op. Then the president launched into his address. He described himself as a law and order president and threatened to use military force to stop these protests if these governors don’t use the national guard. And we sort of saw that play out in real-time just before the president’s remarks.”
“There were military vehicles rolling into the White House complex,” Acosta continued. “They unloaded those forces. And then those forces cleared out the park so the president could take this walk. At one point, I asked the president, how can you defend clearing out a park of protesters for a photo opportunity? He did not respond. A couple of times, I tried to ask that question. He did not respond. But keep in mind, Anderson, and you’re watching this video now of the president walking through Lafayette Park. You know this is a park where the protesters have been lined up for days now protesting against the death of George Floyd. And it was just completely emptied out. It’s just extraordinary what was done here.”
He continued, “We’ve had this discussion over the last couple of hours of the president potentially using the Insurrection Act of 1807 to help quell a domestic disturbance, that’s not what occurred here. They were used to create a photo opportunity and hold up the Bible.”
Host Anderson Cooper said, “This photo opportunity, he didn’t know what to do once he got there. This thing was so badly thought out.”
Acosta said, “Ham-handed. No question about it. This was bad reality television. This wasn’t even good reality television. And the sad state of affairs that we are dealing with tonight in the nation’s capital, Anderson, is that we have now witnessed the president of the United States operating outside the bounds of U.S. law and the tradition of what we know to be our democracy, which is the United States government does not use the military against civilians in this country unless there is a dam good reason. This just wasn’t a dam good reason. All we ended up with was the president of the United States looking like a wannabe dictator so he could walk over to a church and pretend to be concerned about the church. It’s just a sad, unbelievable thing.”
He added, “The Defense Secretary Mark Esper was talking about this earlier today and talking about these protests as battle spaces as if the people in these areas protesting are enemy targets. They’re not. They’re American citizens. And on top of that, you asked about the attorney general. I snapped a picture of the president walking out with Jared and Ivanka, and all of these officials and Bill Barr, the U.S. Attorney General, had a big smile on his face. Why is he smiling after they cleared a park of protesters out of there with tear gas? It’s just, it’s hard to wrap your head around. But we are descending into something that is not the United States of America tonight. There is just no other way to put it.”
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