Attorney General Bill Barr said Thursday his decision to move protesters out of Lafayette Park did not correlate with the president’s visit to St. John’s Episcopal Church across the street.
“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,” Barr said.
Barr said it was “entirely appropriate” for the president to go to the church and for him to ask members of his cabinet to join him.
“The president asked members of his cabinet to go over there with him .. and it was appropriate for us to go over with him,” he said.
Trump’s decision to walk to the church right after Lafayette park was cleared infuriated corporate media and Democrat critics, who accused the president of sending the military to clear the park with tear gas for a photo-op.
The narrative made several establishment Republicans uneasy and even prompted former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to publicly denounced the president’s use of military force, despite evidence that there were violent protesters in the crowd.
Despite reports that the protests were “mostly peaceful” Barr said that violent instigators infiltrated the protests.
“The instigators, those committed to violence, basically shield themselves by going among them and carrying out acts of violence,” he said.
He said he personally saw objects thrown at the Secret Service.
“The rioters used crowbars to dig out the pavers at Lafayette park and used them as projectiles thrown at Secret Service and other federal agents,” he said.
Barr said it was entirely appropriate to clear the park.
“We could not continue to protect the federal property involved and protect the safety of our agents with such a tight perimeter so our object was to move it beyond one block,” he said.