The inspector general of the U.S Department of the Interior released a report Wednesday exonerating President Donald Trump from false claims that he used tear gas to clear “peaceful protesters” from Lafayette Square for a Bible photo-op.
Last June 1, President Trump delivered a speech at the White House denouncing nationwide riots, then walked through Lafayette Square to St. John’s Episcopal Church, which rioters had partially burned the night before, and held a Bible.
Democrats and the media falsely claimed that Trump had used “tear gas” to clear “peaceful protesters” from the park simply for a “photo op.” Then-candidate Joe Biden went further, claiming that Trump held the Bible “upside-down.”
In fact, as then-Attorney General William Barr explained to CBS News’ 60 Minutes last year, the rioters had injured dozens of officers in the two days leading up to the operation, and the U.S. Park Police had independently decided to expand fences establishing a White House perimeter by one city block, using pepper balls to clear those who resisted. Breitbart News fact-checked these claims repeatedly:
Jul. 28, 2020: “Fact Check: Joe Biden Falsely Claims Trump Held Bible Upside Down“
Aug. 17, 2020: “Fact Check: DNC’s False Claim ‘Peaceful Protesters Were Tear-gassed’ at White House“
Sep. 29, 2020: “Fact Check: Joe Biden Repeats False Claim that Trump Cleared ‘Peaceful Protesters’“
Jan. 7, 2021: “Fact Check: Joe Biden Repeats Lies About ‘Tear Gas,’ ‘Upside-down’ Bible in Speech Attacking Trump“
The last fact-check was particularly important, as Biden used these false claims to blame Trump’s for the Capitol riot. The inspector general’s report confirms Trump and Barr’s version of events, and debunks claims by Democrats and the media
Protests began in and around Lafayette Park on May 29, 2020. On May 30, the USPP [U.S. Park Police] and U.S. Secret Service established a unified command to coordinate the law enforcement response to the protests. From May 30 to 31, at least 49 USPP officers were injured while policing the protests, and Federal and private property was vandalized.
On the morning of June 1, the Secret Service procured antiscale fencing to establish a more secure perimeter around Lafayette Park that was to be delivered and installed that same day. The USPP, in coordination with the Secret Service, determined that it was necessary to clear protesters from the area in and around the park to enable the contractor’s employees to safely install the fence. The USPP planned to implement the operation as soon as the fencing materials and sufficient law enforcement officers arrived at the park. Six other law enforcement agencies assisted the USPP and the Secret Service in the operation to clear and secure areas near the park.
The operation began at 6:23 p.m. and was completed by 6:50 p.m. Shortly thereafter, at 7:01 p.m., President Trump walked from the White House through Lafayette Park to St. John’s Church. At 7:30 p.m., the contractor began assembling and installing the antiscale fence and completed the work by approximately 12:30 a.m. on June 2.
What We Found: Analysis of Factual Findings We found that the USPP had the authority and discretion to clear Lafayette Park and the surrounding areas on June 1. The evidence we obtained did not support a finding that the USPP cleared the park to allow the President to survey the damage and walk to St. John’s Church. Instead, the evidence we reviewed showed that the USPP cleared the park to allow the contractor to safely install the antiscale fencing in response to destruction of property and injury to officers occurring on May 30 and 31. Further, the evidence showed that the USPP did not know about the President’s potential movement until mid- to late afternoon on June 1—hours after it had begun developing its operational plan and the fencing contractor had arrived in the park.
The report concludes:
We did not obtain evidence suggesting that the USPP cleared Lafayette Park so the President could visit St. John’s Church. Instead, we found that by approximately 10 a.m. on June 1, the USPP had already begun developing a plan to clear protesters from the area to enable the contractor to safely install the antiscale fence. … We found no evidence establishing that the USPP knew of any potential movement by the President through Lafayette Park until hours later.
There report notes that there was tear gas used nearby — by Washington, D.C., police, operating under Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), who denounced Trump at the time but whose administration is now defending the use of tear gas in court.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new e-book, We Told You So!: The First 100 Days of Joe Biden’s Radical Presidency. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.