- The Washington Times - Friday, June 5, 2020

President Trump touted a letter Thursday that refers to protesters who have gathered near the White House following George Floyd’s recent killing as “not real” and “terrorists.”

Mr. Trump shared the letter through his social media accounts as his administration comes under fire for using force to clear protesters from near Lafayette Square Park this week.

“The phony protesters near Lafayette park were not peaceful and are not real. They are terrorists using idle hate filled students to burn and destroy,” reads part of the letter.

Mr. Trump said on Twitter and Facebook where he shared the letter that it came from John Dowd, his former lawyer, and that reading it “would be of interest to the American People.”

Mr. Dowd, a former Marine who represented the president during the government’s investigation into the 2016 election, confirmed he wrote the letter. He told The Washington Times in an email Friday that he sent it to James Mattis, Mr. Trump’s former defense secretary who recently slammed his handling of the protests at Lafayette Square, and that he had authorized the president to post it on social media.

Asked for evidence of his claim that the protesters are “not real” and “terrorists,” Mr. Dowd cited television coverage of police forcefully clearing demonstrators from the northern perimeter of Lafayette Square Park on Monday during an incident that has resulted in the Trump administration coming under fire from Mr. Mattis, among others.

Peaceful protests have taken place worldwide in the days since Floyd was killed in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department in Minnesota on May 25, including at Lafayette Square Park north of the White House and nearby streets in downtown Washington, D.C. Violence has erupted in some cities amid the unrest as well, leading to 51 arrests nationwide recently for federal crimes related to rioting, Attorney General William P. Barr announced Thursday.

Authorities had already closed down Lafayette Square Park to the public when police abruptly cleared neighboring H Street NE nearly 30 minutes before a citywide curfew was set to take effect Monday night. Mr. Trump was escorted moments later through the park and across the street before posing for photographs outside a church that had been partially burned the previous evening.

Mr. Dowd penned the letter to Mr. Mattis after the former defense chief publicly denounced the president’s handling of the protests and particularly the use of force seen in D.C.

“We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square,” Mr. Mattis wrote in an op-ed early Wednesday. “We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.”

In his reply shared by Mr. Trump calling the protesters “terrorists,” Mr. Dowd wrote that they were “abusing and disrespecting the police” prior to being cleared from the area.

Civil rights groups filed a lawsuit in D.C. federal court later Thursday on behalf of protesters attacked by federal troops while being cleared from the area. Journalists were attacked during the incident as well, evidenced in video of an Australian news crew whose reporters were assaulted by U.S. Park Police officers while covering the protest.

Floyd, 46, died after being restrained by several members of the MPD who have since been fired from the force and criminally charged in connection with his killing. A black man, Floyd’s death in the custody of white officers has since sparked nationwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality.

The White House did not immediately return a message inquiring whether Mr. Trump agrees with Mr. Dowd about the protesters outside his home being “not real” and “terrorists.”

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