Trump Says He Didn’t Order Protesters Cleared For Church Visit

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he didn’t order authorities to clear protesters from a park next to the White House to make way for his photo in front of a burned church late Monday.

Trump and the U.S. Park Police have been criticized for using munitions including smoke cannisters and pepper balls to clear peaceful demonstrators so the president could stand in front of the damaged St. John’s Episcopal Church with a Bible in hand.

“I didn’t say, oh, move them out,” Trump said Wednesday morning in a radio interview with Fox News host Brian Kilmeade.

“They didn’t use tear gas. They moved them out,” Trump added. People on the scene at the time, including journalists and a priest at the church who was forcibly removed, have described the riot-control agents the police used as tear gas.

Trump has moved to quash the protests, urging governors to “dominate” them and threatening to send in the military if they don’t. “Get tough police!” he tweeted Wednesday morning, urging a crackdown on protests sparked by the death of Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. The now-ex-officer has been charged with third-degree murder.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper is among those distancing himself from Monday’s events, which have left Trump with a dwindling set of options.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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