Barr Confirms Details That The Clearing Of Lafayette Park Was Unrelated To Church Photo Op

440px-William_BarrMargaret Brennan just completed an interview with Attorney General Bill Barr on CBS Face the Nation.  For days, the allegation from politicians, the press, protesters, and pundits has been that the Park was cleared for the purpose of the widely criticized photo op held by Trump in front of St. John’s Church.  For example, in an uncorrected segment still up on the Internet, NPR declaresPeaceful Protesters Tear-Gassed To Clear Way For Trump Church Photo-Op.”  (Tear gas was also not actually used as opposed to pepper spray — though that distinction is technical at best since pepper spray has much of the same impact on individuals even if it is based on capsicum). The photo op allegation continues to be repeated on the Internet despite various media reports debunking it.  This morning Barr confirmed the details in those reports and offered some new details.  Barr however continues to support the level of force used in the Park and the decision to go forward with the clearing of the Park

Barr confirmed that the plan to clear the park came from the Park Police, which asked for the expansion of the perimeter on Sunday night.  He reviewed the plan Monday morning and, with others, approved the plan.  The order was transmitted to Park Police at 2 pm. (I will return to that issue).  Here is the key exchange:

BARR: I’m going to- let me get to this, because this has been totally obscured by the media. They broke into the Treasury Department, and they were injuring police. That night,–


BARR: Sunday night, the park police prepared a plan to clear H Street and put a- a larger perimeter around the White House so they could build a more permanent fence on Lafayette.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This is something you approved on Sunday night?

BARR: No. The park police on their own on- on Sunday night determined this was the proper approach. When I came in Monday, it was clear to me that we did have to increase the perimeter on that side of Lafayette Park and push it out one block. That decision was made by me in the morning. It was communicated to all the police agencies, including the Metropolitan Police at 2:00 p.m. that day. The effort was to move the perimeter one block, and it had to be done when we had enough people in place to achieve that. And that decision, as I say, was communicated to the police at 2:00 p.m.. The operation was run by the park police. The park police was facing what they considered to be a very rowdy and non-compliant crowd. And there were projectiles being hurled at the police. And at that point, it was not to respond–

MARGARET BRENNAN: On Monday, you’re saying there were projectiles–

BARR: On Monday, yes there were.

MARGARET BRENNAN: As I’m saying, three of my colleagues were there.

BARR: Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: They did not see projectiles being thrown–

BARR: I was there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: –when that happened.

BARR: I was there. They were thrown. I saw them thrown.

Even at 2 p.m. the movement of the Park Police was not related to a decision to walk to the church and such a plan was not known to him or the Park Police since it came later in the day.  Brennan did not challenge the reporting supporting that timeline or the fact that the order was unrelated.

Brennan does challenge what she said was Barr’s assertion that the Secretary Mark Esper did not rule out the use of the Insurrection Act.  This may have been a lost in legal translation moment. It think Barr was making a narrower legal point while Brennan thought it was a more general statement. Here is what Barr said:

“The option to use active duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.”

Esper was not saying that the Act could not be used but should only be used as a “last resort.”  Neither Barr not Esper supported invoking the Act, i.e., ordering deployments under the Act.  Both however agreed it could be used as a legal matter if circumstances warranted. Here is what Barr said:

MARGARET BRENNAN: So in this Monday meeting with the president, when the Defense Secretary, who has now publicly said that he opposed using the Insurrection Act, you said what to the president?

BARR: I don’t think the Secretary of Defense said he opposed it. I think he said that it was a last resort and he didn’t think it was necessary. I think we all agree that it’s a last resort, but it’s ultimately the president’s decision. The- the reporting is completely false on this.

Both Esper and Barr seem to agree that the Act is available but that current circumstances do not warrant their use. Both agree it should be used as a “last resort.”

Here is where I disagree with Barr.  If the park was to be cleared, it should have been done before the protesters appeared.  Barr earlier said that he wanted it done in the morning for that reason. It was delayed waiting for reinforcements.  In my view, it was mistake not to either clear the park in the morning or wait for the next morning.  Barr’s position is that 150 federal officers had been injured and the park had to be cleared.  He also insisted that the level of force was warranted. I again disagree. The move escalated the tension. We have seen the same decisions by District police and state police across the country. Indeed, a federal judge today issued an order to restrict state and local police in Oregon in the use of such means.

However, there continues to a common narrative being promulgated on the photo op.  There are various investigations being demanded and we will likely get more information on whether Barr is outright lying on these details. However, it would be perfectly insane to do so when you are citing Park Police plans that will be available to Congress and the public in time.

Here is the transcript: Barr interview

292 thoughts on “Barr Confirms Details That The Clearing Of Lafayette Park Was Unrelated To Church Photo Op”

    1. An excellent video at the top of the Washington Post piece

      “The Washington Post reconstructed who did what to clear protestors from the streets outside the White House on June 1. Watch how it unfolded. (Sarah Cahlan, Joyce Lee, Atthar Mirza/The Washington Post)”

      1. Does WaPo show the arson of St. John’s or the looting of H & I streets from the night before ?

        1. NO John, they didn’t get the heads up and nothing news worthy was otherwise occurring there.

          Given that there will always be law breakers in society, you do get that citizens should be especially concerned about law breaking or bad behavior by their government, right? It is our responsibility in a democracy.

          1. “NO John, they didn’t get the heads up and nothing news worthy was otherwise occurring there.”

            What does this mean ? I found the unedited Barr interview, He strongly pushed back.
            Further his claim that protesters at laffeyette Park was documented by violence in the park and surrounding area over the prior three days.
            He claimed that pavers had been broken from the ground and thrown at park police that Bike racks and railing had been broken from the ground that hammers and crowbars had been through at the park police, and that the burning and looting at St. Johns and on H & I streets started with protesters in the park. He further asserted and the park police confirmed that the decision to move the exclusion zone had been made by the park police the night before while violence was taking place, and that it took many hours to approve and impliment that.

            What part of that is a “lie” ?

            This is serious – when you, the left, the media, democrats, anyone accuse someone else of lying. Particularly someone with a decades long record of credibility, the burden of proof is on you – and it is high. Worse still unless you prove your target meaningfully lied – not this idiotic claim of false catagorization that Pepper Spray is a “chemical irritant” then the consequence is the loss of your credibility, your integrity not bars.

            The left and the MSM unfortunately including WaPo have no credibily or integrity. There is no reason to trust them.

            With respect to Barr – Was the arson attack on St. John’s and local businesses “fake news” ? The looting ?

            If you want me to condemn Barr and law enforcement for lying and lawless behavior, you must prove your case – and the standard of proof is high.

          2. “citizens should be especially concerned about law breaking or bad behavior by their government,”


            I have been speaking out about lawless government behavior much of my life.

            While some of the demands resulting from the Floyd death are looney, several of them are things I have advocated for loudly for more than a decade.

            End qualified immunity ! Not just for police, but for all government employees.
            Those in government are entitled to a high benefit of the doubt when they are enforcing the law. Credibly proof must be offered that those in government violated peoples rights,
            but the myriads of other obstacles the courts have put in the way are wrong.

            End the militarization of the police. You or someone else linked a Radley Balko tweet as evidence the Park protestors were not violent. I greatly trust Balko and I am sure he is correct. But the justification for expanding the perimeter and clearing the park was not the behavior of protestors in the park at that moment, but the fact that the park had been violent for several days and was used as a base for violence.
            That said Balko has an excellent book on the militariation of the police over the past 50 years. I will fully support depriving police of military weapons. Aside from the bad consequences from use of those weapons and the certaintly that what is provided will be used, providing the police with military weapons changes their culture in very bad ways.

            Barring holds that restrict breathing and blood flow – particularly from the neck up.

            These and many more are excellent reforms that I have championed for years.

            I have a long record advocating publicly for all of this on other blogs, and possibly even here.

            I would further note that the Trump WH meeting with law enforcement yesterday is available online, and every proposal above was raised publicly in that meeting and is being further pursued. While Trump has been a strong advocate for law enforcement, he has also been an advocate for criminal justice reform. The legislation he pasted last year is weak and a poor start, but it is a start. As in many other areas, Obama had the opportunity to enact criminal justice reform. He failed. Trump has been extremely active in reducing the incarcerated population of non-violent offenders. numbers have been released administratively – a few have been released through pardons.
            Any of this could have been done by Obama. It was not.

            The reforming of policing that hopefully will be the one positive result of this mess, could have been done by Obama after Furgesson.

            You want to criticize Trump for being Johnny come lately to issues like chokeholds or militarization of the police or qualified immunity – absolutely. These have not been things Trump cared about before. But Obama did not even try to do anything after Furgesson.
            Obama and democrats are “Johnny come never” on these issues. And what we see from democrats and the left is not constructive reforms but dangerous nonsense.

            Last night we heard a CNN anchor ask a Democratic Mineapolis City Counsel member about defunding the police and what someone calling 911 as thugs were breaking down her door was supposed to react. The councel woman offered that the 911 caller should check her priviledge.

            Outside a few concrete reform proposals that have been arround for a long time, the purported “new” ideas of the left, are about as sane as the french revolution.

            No one is going to going to abolish the police. In the highly unlikely event they do chaos will ensue.

            The long list of reforms that need to be undertaken are important, but they are not reflections of systemic failure. They are reflections of a need to change the culture of policing. That said even the flaws in policing are areas that have been improving for decades.

            Crime has trended down for decades, Police brutality has trended down for decades. In 2019 only 9 unarmed blacks were killed by police. In 4 instances officers were charged with crimes. In several of the rest, unarmed did not mean harmless or non-violent.

            What happened to George Floyd was inescusable. It is also fortunately extremely rare.
            As a result over 60 people have died, many more have been injured, atleast a dozen police officers, and millions possibly a billion dollars in property has been damaged – large portions within poor communities.

              1. “We agree on much of that but you make several errors:”
                If you are right – that does not make anything I said an error.

                “1. Trump does not think seriously about anything. Seriously.”
                I do not know what goes on in Trump;s head, nor do you.
                Nor do I care. I am far more interested in what he does than what he says.

                “2. The House Democrats have a bill due addressing police practices which includes much of this”
                If so maybe we will get a bipartisan consensus.
                I have not read their Bill, but I would presume based on experience that it also is chock full of giveaways and drastic overreach.
                That does not matter if the final result does not.
                Generally the pork is more dangerous than the overreach.
                It is far easier for both sides to slather a good bill with lard than to get overreach past.

                Barr has addressed consent decrees.
                I not only agree with Barr, but history shows he is correct.
                They have had no significant positive effect, in fact the net effect has been negative.

                One of the critical issues in all of this is to grasp that a significant portion of existing policing is absolutely necescary. Whatever is done, if it weakens that core, the result will be an increase in crime and violence.

                Nothing would result in loss of interest in George Floyd faster than 10 times the violence that this protest has had. Rather than defunding the police we would be giving them every toy they dreamed of in return for the promise of safety.

                WaPo is not a trusted source. Regardless your article is paywalled.

                1. It’s noteworthy John, that there was no bill being proposed that I’m aware addressing police practices while they were being universally praised for cracking down on protesters violating social distancing and stay at home orders. In the blink of an eye, our dedicated law enforcement community went from being hailed to being keelhauled by protesters violating social distancing and stay at home orders.

                  The hypocrisy is astounding.

    2. We already know that the MSM Censored Barr’s interview, editing out the portions in which he defending the claims that are being assumed to be lies.

      I disagree with Barr on some matters of policy,
      But he has a decades long established reputation for honesty.
      You, the left and the media have burned any reputation that you have for honesty.

      So why am I to beleive you ? When you say Barr is Dishonest ?

      Why am I to beleive WaPo, which has trashed a century long reputation for honesty ?

      1. John, because he lies like a rug. The WaPo on the other hand publishes retractions for errors and publishes news that’s embarrassing for authorities in both parties.

        1. Then why hasn’t this story been retracted ?

          I listened to the Full Barr interview – you should if you can. It is quite good,
          I would also suggest the video of the public portion of the whitehouse conference on law enforcement. But that is not relevant to Barr’s statements regarding the park.

          Regardless, Barr is perfectly clear that clearing the park was a park service recomended response to 3 days of violence and burning and looting – not conduct in the minutes before it was implimented.

          Barr’s comments are not merely reasonable, they are actions that ordinary people would undertake in the same position. There are no “lies” – aside from the lies told about what he said.

          You appear to be hair triggered by anything in anyway touching Trump.

          We are at a point today where if Trump acted to end genocide, the left would oppose it.

          I neither support nor oppose Trump or his cabinet generically.

          I have specific policy disagreements with Barr, I have even more with Trump.

          I fully understand that if reform comes about because of Trump, that is oportunistic.
          But I will take Trump’s oportunisticallyh doing what needs done, over Obama’s failure

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