A nonpartisan watchdog report exonerated former president Donald Trump on Wednesday when it determined that his plans to walk through Lafayette Square last summer did not influence law enforcement’s decisions to clear protesters out of the park.
The report from the Department of the Interior’s Office of the Inspector General concluded that Trump’s decision to take a photo in front of a nearby church with a Bible in hand had nothing to do with police’s clash with protesters in the park.
Law enforcement knew Trump might visit the area, but the U.S. Park Police had already decided to clear the park in order to install additional fencing around the White House before Trump’s plans were made known.
Park Police became aware of Trump’s potential visit just hours before the clash between police and rioters, but the report noted that police did not alter their plans at all.
The Park Police operations commander told investigators he informed then-Attorney General William Barr that authorities were getting ready to move the crowd.
Barr reportedly asked him, “Are these people still going to be out here when POTUS comes out?”
According to the report, the commander did not know Trump had planned on entering the park and responded, “Are you freaking kidding me?”
Democrats and mainstream media outlets blasted Trump at the time, accusing him of deliberately harming rioters so he could take a picture:
He’s using the American military against the American people.
He tear-gassed peaceful protesters and fired rubber bullets.
For a photo.
For our children, for the very soul of our country, we must defeat him. But I mean it when I say this: we can only do it together. https://t.co/G1yE67q9Nz
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) June 2, 2020
Trump responded to the watchdog report and hailed it as an exoneration.
“Thank you to the Department of the Interior Inspector General for Completely and Totally exonerating me in the clearing of Lafayette Park!” Trump said in a statement.
“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,” he added.