A federal report on Wednesday cleared President Trump of accusations he ordered Black Lives Matter protesters dispersed at Lafayette Park last year so he could walk from the White House to a nearby church.
Instead, the report said that the U.S. Park Service had the authority to disperse the protesters and did so to construct a fence, which was completed by 12:30 a.m. the following day.
“We found that the USPP had the authority and discretion to clear Lafayette Park and the surrounding areas on June 1,” said the report from the Interior Department’s inspector general.
The inspector general’s findings, however, said the Park Service’s warnings to the protesters couldn’t be heard by everyone and that the department should develop a more detailed policy for handling protests in the future.
Mr. Trump celebrated the report, saying it exonerated him.
“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 who are causing chaos and death to our cities,” Mr. Trump said.
“In this instance, they tried burning down the church the day before the clearing. Fortunately, we were there to stop the fire from spreading beyond the basement — and it was our great honor and privilege to do so.”
A spokesperson from the U.S. Park Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On June 1, Mr. Trump walked from the White House across Lafayette Park to St. John’s Episcopal Church which earlier had been set fire by protesters.
The activists had gathered in Lafayette Park near the White House days earlier for racial justice protests following the killing of George Floyd.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued the Trump administration alleging the president and his team conspired to violate the constitutional rights of protesters.
They claimed the feds attacked them with tear gas and weapons.
The case is still pending.
Scott Michelman, legal director for the ACLU of the District of Columbia, said the government has given “conflicting explanations for the shocking act on civil rights demonstrators.”
At first, the Justice Department originally said former Attorney General William P. Barr gave the order to disperse the protesters, he noted.
“The federal officials’ briefs in our ongoing lawsuit about the attack also offer inconsistent narratives. These shifting explanations cannot distract from the fundamental problem: The force used against the demonstrators at Lafayette Square was grossly excessive,” Mr. Michelman said.