Attorney General William Barr said that the U.S. Secret Service told Donald Trump to go to a secure part of the White House as large protests unfolded outside, contradicting the president’s account of what happened.
“Things were so bad that the Secret Service recommended that the president go down to the bunker,” Barr said Monday evening in an interview on Fox News. “We can’t have that in our country.”
The opposing versions of what occurred center on the night of May 31, as demonstrations over the death of George Floyd had spread to the capital.
Trump last week denied going to the bunker for his safety. “Well, that was a false report,” Trump said Wednesday on Brian Kilmeade’s Fox News Radio show. “I was there for a tiny, little short period of time. It was much more for an inspection.”
On the previous Friday night, demonstrators skirmished with the U.S. Secret Service in Lafayette Square outside the White House. Floyd, an African-American Minneapolis man, had died in police custody on May 25.
The clashes occurred alongside an outer ring of temporary fencing set up along the edge of the park, leading to six arrests and “multiple” injuries among the agency’s personnel, the Secret Service said.
Barr said that when a crowd of protesters was forcibly cleared from the park last Monday to make way for Trump to pose for photos outside St. John’s Church, “we were reacting to three days of extremely violent demonstrations right across from the White House. A lot of injuries to police officers. Arson.”
Barr, a longtime advocate of a muscular presidency, played a key role in the removal of the protesters, who were demonstrating peacefully. He stood in the square as police in riot gear prepared to move against them. He said that some of the demonstrators were throwing rocks and bottles, although that wasn’t seen on video.
The clearance of Lafayette Square, and Trump’s threat to send federal troops to cities and states to quell unrest touched off widespread criticism, including from Jim Mattis, his former Defense secretary and a retired Marine general.
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