“Lingering Questions”: The Post Issues Bizarre Response To IG Report Debunking Its Past Claims

In 2016, Karen Tumulty wrote a column in the Washington Post titled “Trump: Never Wrong, Never Sorry, Never Responsible” that criticized Donald Trump as someone who refused “to take ownership of the outrageous things he has said and done.”  Tumulty’s column came to mind this week when the Washington Post faced a federal report that debunked literally dozens of Post articles on the clearing of the Lafayette Square area on June 1, 2020. The Interior Department’s Inspector General unambiguously refuted the claim that former Attorney General Bill Barr ordered the clearing to allow Trump to hold his controversial photo op in front of St. John’s Church. The Post (which proclaims that “Democracy Dies In Darkness”) shed little light on its own role in the fostering of this conspiracy theory.

The Washington Post was one of the most cited sources for the photo op myth. Indeed, the Post‘s 12-minute “video timeline” was heralded as the definitive source on what occurred, even winning the 2021 duPont-Columbia Award.

One of the most cited articles was by Philip Bump titled “Attorney General Bill Barr’s Dishonest Defense of Clearing of Lafayette Square.” Not only did the Post refer to the “debunked claim” that no tear gas was used by the federal government, but goes on to state incredibly:

“It is the job of the media to tell the truth. The truth is that Barr’s arguments about the events of last Monday collapse under scrutiny and that his flat assertion that there was no link between clearing the square and Trump’s photo op should be treated with the same skepticism that his claims about the use of tear gas earns.”

It turns out that both claims appear true so what is the “job of the media” when its earlier claims are debunked? Moreover, there was never a basis for the Post to state this conspiracy theory as fact. The IG found “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.” Conversely, it was not done “to allow the President to survey the damage and walk to St. John’s Church.”

After the release of the report, the Post responded with a second article by Bump entitled ‘The lingering questions about the clearing of Lafayette Square” which struggles to keep doubt (and the conspiracy theory) alive.  Bump emphasizes a scene shortly before the operation where Barr reportedly said “Are these people still going to be here when POTUS comes out?”  Bump says that that is a referring to the protesters and still raises a “lingering question.”

However, buried in the article, the Post admits that this statement does not actually contradict the report on the purpose of the operation or its timing. It admits that “those preparations were made before Barr arrived at the scene. That’s compelling evidence for the argument that the area was going to be cleared despite Barr’s presence.”  It also states that “The inspector general’s assessment does add new information to the established timeline that reinforces the Park Police’s assertions that the area was cleared to erect new fencing to better protect the White House complex.”

It is not particularly new information. Indeed, I laid out the evidence against the conspiracy theory in my testimony to Congress just a couple weeks after the operation.

From the outset, the most obvious explanation for the clearing of the area was the high level of violence by protesters around the White House.  While many today still claim that the protests were “entirely peaceful” and there was no “attack on the White House,” that claim is demonstrably false. There was in fact an exceptionally high number of officers were injured over the course of days of protests around the White House. In addition to a reported 150 officers were injured (including at least 49 Park Police officers around the White House), protesters caused extensive property damage including the torching of a historic structure and the attempted arson of St. John’s.  The threat was so great that Trump had to be moved into the bunker because the Secret Service feared a breach of security around the White House.

The expansion of the perimeter the same decision made (and indeed the same fencing) by Congress when it responded to January 6 riot this year. Absent such fencing, an extremely dangerous situation could have arisen where a major breach of the White House perimeter would have triggered the use of lethal force with the potential of a major loss of life.

Despite the evidence to the contrary (and the admissions in his article) Bump still questions of whether all of this was just “essentially a coincidence.” That is the bizarre element. The Post acknowledges that the report details the approval of the plan at least a day earlier to address the violence around the White House and threat of a breach of the compound. It also details how the operation was supposed to go forward earlier on that day but personnel and fencing were delayed.  In the meantime, the White House decided on its own to move forward with a photo op. Barr’s comment would seem the obvious one when told about the plan for a photo op as the personnel were still deploying to clear the area. None of that seems particularly challenging or incomprehensible.

Bump also does not deal at all with his mocking Barr as a liar for denying that the federal operation used tear gas. The federal government has long denied using “tear gas” in its operation as opposed to pepper balls in the clearing operation on June 6th. The difference has little real significance either legally or practically. The IG found that “the USPP incident commander did not authorize CS gas for this operation. Expecting that CS gas would not be used, most USPP officers did not wear gas masks.” Not only did the IG not find evidence of tear gas in the federal operation, it confirmed “and the MPD confirmed, that the MPD used CS gas on 17th Street on June 1. As discussed above, the MPD was not a part of nor under the control or direction of the USPP’s and the Secret Service’s unified command structure.”

In fact, last week, the District admitted that it used tear gas about a block away in its enforcement of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s curfew. The admission was itself breathtaking since the media lionized Bowser for her stance against the operation and specifically the use of tear gas. For a year, the District knew that it used the tear gas and said nothing to the public as Bowser basked in the media glow – and Barr was attacked as a liar.

Now, on the anniversary of the operation, the Bowser Administration is arguing that the use of tear gas was entirely appropriate and that the clearing of the area was reasonable. The Biden Administration is also seeking dismissal of the BLM case by declaring “Presidential security is a paramount government interest that weighs heavily in the Fourth Amendment balance.”

What is striking about the Post’s article is that it’s mocking treatment of the denials of the conspiracy theory or the federal use of tear gas. While the Post could in good faith withhold its final judgment and not simply accept the denials of the government, it had no basis to present the photo op allegations as virtual fact. (Indeed, I thought the evidence contradicted the photo op allegation but in my testimony I encouraged Congress to investigate and confirm the facts on the purpose of the operation and the federal denial of using tear gas as opposed to pepper balls). Even in the face of a detailed federal report, the Post is still claiming “lingering questions” — a level of scrutiny and skepticism absent in its fostering the photo op claim over the last year.

Ultimately, the IG Report may have more to say about our media culture than the clearing operation itself. The media actively shaped the news to fit a narrative that is still widely believed. As Tumulty stated about Trump in 2016, the “refusal to apologize is yet another measure of . . . strength” for those who prefer the myth to the facts. There is an old saying in journalism that there are simply some “facts too good to check.” The Post has shown that there are also some false facts too good to correct.

50 thoughts on ““Lingering Questions”: The Post Issues Bizarre Response To IG Report Debunking Its Past Claims”

  1. Paul says:

    “The answer to EVERYTHING from the likes of Jeff, Svelez and company is
    ” But Trump” and Fox News. Almost never addresses the subject matter that TURLEY BRINGS UP ON HIS BLOG.”

    As I have said repeatedly, Paul, I don’t disagree with much of Turley’s criticism in his articles. I am simply pointing out his abject hypocrisy for ignoring worse abuses by the news network he works for. If Turley did not work for Fox, I would have no complaints at all.

    I have pointed out that Turley is not a Trumpist and shares my liberal values. He will defend Trump’s prosecution and conviction (if he ever stands trial). And when that happens, you will be criticizing him, not I….

  2. Mr. Turley what else would you expect coming from someone like Philip Bump who is much a journalist as was Goebbels. This is a man who cheered on Kim’s sister during one of Trump’s visits to N Korea ( i believe he wrote something like “Go Girl go'” He is a despicable , dishonest , disingenuous propagandist for a former newspaper that is below contempt . Almost all articles printed in the piece of trash are written through the lens of one type of grievance or another. It really is a sickening piece of trash. If you have any hopes that it is redeemable I am afraid you will be sorely disappointed.

  3. There are no lingering questions about the clearing of Lafayette Square. Trump wanted to get a pic of him holding a bible in front of a church to deflect from looking weak by hiding out in the bunker a little while previous. The Square was miraculously cleared immediately before his little stroll. Now the denials of those who tried to maintain it all happened in a vacuum, or that those who (like yourself) claimed tear gas wasn’t used. It’s a Trump administration pattern, Jon, as you well know by your having bought into being an unofficial spokesman for them…

    It’s not gong to stop. Witness the news today of Justice Dept. investigation of Dems on the Intelliegence Committee. It moves onward. Elections have consequences…, when you lose after one term, it’s really hard to bury the wrongdoing from that term without having another term to try and disappear it.


    1. Witness the news today of Justice Dept. investigation of Dems on the Intelliegence Committee.

      Spying on a political campaign, and Presidential transition team is perfectly legal. Congress should have no special treatment.

      From 2014
      Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Tuesday went to the Senate floor to charge that the CIA was spying on committee staff members who were conducting oversight of the intelligence agency.

      1. No one in Washington functions under the illusion intelligence isn’t being collected on them.

        Thing here is it was pushed from the executive into the Justice Dept. Also that they got caught at it. Also that the information slipped into the public sphere. Elementary mistakes, all.

        It’s one thing for intelligence agencies to collect information. Quite another for the Justice Dept. to take orders from the president to investigate enemies. Yes, even in Washington.


  4. The state-like run media along with big tech have and continue to harm this country more than government ever could. The extent to which could not have been foreseen even a decade ago.

  5. Do you think the liberal media lied/lies about anything else? I doubt it…

  6. It is only bizarre if you think the Post has any interest in the truth. It doesn’t so their behavior is completely in line with character. The question is why anyone believes anything reported in the WP

  7. Turley quips about the Washington Post:

    “There is an old saying in journalism that there are simply some “facts too good to check.”

    In its April court filings in the defamation lawsuits brought by Smartmatic and Dominion, Fox News claimed that since it was offering newsworthy information from the president’s lawyers, it didn’t need to deeply scrutinize Powell’s and Giuliani’s allegations!

    In other words, Powell’s and Giuliani’s defamatory conspiracy theories were too good for Fox News to check out. By not likewise condemning Fox, Turley is a shameless hypocrite.

    1. Idiot why bring up Fox news OH I get it to take heat off Wapoo for its lying reporting

      1. John,

        I don’t deny that the Post may have gotten part of its story wrong. I am simply pointing out that Turley hypocritically ignores the false reporting of the news network he works for. If Turley still worked for MSNBC, he would be taking issue Fox News.

    2. Mr and I use that term loosely Silverman , put up or shut up. I’ll put up $1,000 (for your favourite charity ,Clinton foundation?)and a public apology for doubting the malignant crap dribbling across the pages of your posts. You don’t have to put anything up, but if Dominion looses you put down your pen and are never heard from again.

      1. Mr. Schwarz,

        Suppose Fox and Dominion and Smartmatic settle out of court for an undisclosed sum of money, do I still get the $1000?

        I’ll give the money to my favorite charity- me!

  8. I would like to add, if I may, that the biggest issue regarding the riots that forced Trump into the bunker last May is the fact that this attack on the Capital should be considered as much of an “insurrection” as the riot on January 6th. If the riot on Jan 6th is to be condemned then why not the riots of May 2020? Isn’t forcing the POTUS to leave the WH as egregious as forcing Reps to run for cover? Isn’t burning a famous church across from the WH as flagrant as storming the Capital?

    While I am on a roll (my description), why is it not “insurrectiony” to have rioters invading the Senate to scream about Kavanaugh and even getting right into elevators with beta males like Jeff Flake? Why is it ok to attack the SCOTUS by trying to break down the door to, it must be assumed, enter the lands highest court?

    Another point, as the roll continues, is my curiosity as to why attacking a FEDERAL court house in Portland isn’t some kind of insurrection? How about burning down police stations?

    In 1983 there was a bomb placed in the Capital and it actually went off…but of course “January 6th….”

    The Puerto Rican nationalists attacked the Capital with guns in 1954 and yet Jan 6th is “worse than anything since Pearl Harbor, and maybe worse???

    The Weathermen, a radical group in the 1960s and 70s, went on to bomb police stations, military targets AND THE CAPITAL and do you know who was in the Weathermen? The terrorist group included Bill Ayers, close buddy to Omama, Bernadette Dorn, Kathy Boudin, mommy of Chesa Boudin, the new DA in SF, and member of a group that robbed a Brinks truck where cop was killed. But hey, Jan 6th is the worst day since the Civil War??

    A Bernie Sanders supporter took a gun, went to a field where REPUBLICANS were playing softball and shot them, seriously injuring Steve Scalise.

    So the question is: is there anything that members of the left can do that can be called an insurrection? Is there anything the left has ever done that was an insurrection? Hypocrisy is infrastructure!

    Of course people like Jeff and Anonymous, the non-sequitur brigade, will now reply that Trump lies and Turley works for Fox.

    1. Well said, but liberals are deaf to anything but the communist party line.

    2. Thank you. Perfect arguments. The answer to EVERYTHING from the likes of Jeff, Svelez and company is
      ” But Trump” and Fox News. Almost never addresses the subject matter that TURLEY BRINGS UP ON HIS BLOG. Just endless lefty Bull ** it.

  9. We all know that Turley is a very dear and long-standing friend of Bill Barr. While he has acknowledged that he has philosophical differences, Turley does not doubt Barr’s integrity. To his credit, Turley posted this letter he received last July from 3 distinguished lawyers who Turley believed are acting in good faith. It is important to remind people of what these reputable lawyers- according to Turley- had to say about Barr’s integrity:


  10. Anxiously awaiting Twitter and Facebook banning WaPo, NYT and the rest of the leftist media for spreading disinformation.

  11. I don’t have the impression that JT’s read the entire report. He certainly doesn’t discuss it in detail. A more detailed discussion –

    1. I don’t have the impression that JT’s read the entire report.

      You aren’t paying attention. JT testimony before congress laid out exactly what the report said, only weeks before the report was written.

      1. YOU aren’t paying attention.

        “JT testimony before congress laid out exactly what the report said” is false, but apparently you don’t know it’s false, because you haven’t paid attention to the entire report either.

        The DOI IG only investigated the actions of the USPP, because the USPP are the only LE actors from that day who fall under the purview of the DOI.

        The report acknowledges this: “As noted above, we focused on the USPP’s conduct, so we sought interviews and information from individuals outside of the USPP when doing so would provide us with information about the USPP’s activities. Accordingly, we did not seek to interview Attorney General William Barr, White House personnel, Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) officers, MPD personnel, or Secret Service personnel regarding their independent decisions that did not involve the USPP.” (emphasis added)

        As Luppen notes, “This report does not address all the conduct of law enforcement at Lafayette Park on June 1st. The investigators didn’t look into any “independent decisions that did not involve the USPP.” Consequently, when the report speaks about the USPP’s knowledge or how the actions of the Attorney General did or didn’t affect the USPP, those findings can’t be extrapolated to all the federal forces present at the park.” (emphasis added) He later notes that “thanks to a report from the Project on Government Oversight, we know that Homeland Security quashed an investigation by its own Inspector General into the Secret Service’s part in the events of June 1st.” The DOI IG could not investigate the Secret Service’s actions that day. His report notes that “The USPP incident commander told us … the plan was “thrown off a little bit” when the Secret Service deployed early,” but he wasn’t in a position to explore why they deployed early or who ordered that. Luppen also discusses the implications of a partly redacted section about an unnamed official. Why is anything in this report redacted? Unlike the redactions in the Mueller Report, which specify the reasons for individual redactions, the redactions in the DOI IG’s report don’t say.

        Are you truly arguing that JT testified along the lines of “we can draw conclusions about the Park Police, but we can’t draw conclusions about the other federal forces or Barr”?

        1. Again, you aren’t paying attention. The propaganda agents lied about what happened. You keep cutting and pasting propaganda to support your position. Except your sources are proven propaganda agents. Yet you still believe them.

          1. LOL that you call a quote from the DOI IG’s report “propaganda.”

            “your sources are proven propaganda agents”

            You’ve presented no proof at all.

        2. Oops I believe your use of the Muller report reactions poisons your argument. When the reactions were removed it was clear they were made to protect reputations not for national defense or any legitimate purpose. Secondly the report relies on hundreds of news paper reports with unnamed sources and unverified speculations. No where did I see the sources tracked down, identity verified and there information confirmed. What a shoddy 4th grade home work assignment Muller turn in.

          1. “I believe your use of the Muller report reactions poisons your argument”

            His name is Mueller, not Muller, and you didn’t say how you think my totally factual claim that “Unlike the redactions in the Mueller Report, which specify the reasons for individual redactions, the redactions in the DOI IG’s report don’t say” poisons anything.

            It’s a fact that the Mueller Report specifies reasons for the redactions (e.g., “HOM” — “harm to ongoing matter, “Grand Jury”). It’s a fact that the redactions in the DOI IG’s report do not identify the reason(s) for the redactions. Do you dispute those facts?

            “When the reactions were removed it was clear they were made to protect reputations not for national defense or any legitimate purpose.”

            I invite you to quote even a single example to start proving your claim.

  12. WaPo would like you to believe that “Democracy Dies in Darkness” is cautionary. It is actually aspirational.

  13. I’m sorry, but I don’t care. The Democrats have allowed blm, antifa, chop and others to burn down and destroy what ever they wanted to. So, perhaps us lowly American taxpaying citizens who pay for the damages anyway, want our days we can protest. America is gone.. the reason the Democrats keep saying Russia is they want to turn the USA into exactly that. Where there is one party, the Democrats and we will all line upnfor the poisonous jabs, drive the car we are allowed, work the jobs we are allowed to and do what we are told. And the media has done all that it can to hasten our demise into communism. Sadly President Trump showed us that the swamp is full of extremophiles who create the only environment that they can thrive in… a very toxic environment full of toxic people, policies, and directives.

    1. Judith,

      Your lies are old, but I must say that you tell them very well. My compliments!

    1. Their lies have been out for a while & promoted by the Deep State fake media, but the turth is coming out to the gen public. Arizona, etc. the 14-15000 hours of security video from the capital grounds of the peaceful permited rally for Amer., on Jan ,2021 & other works produced at their own expense like Mike Lindell.


  14. Democracy also dies with deceit, something WaPo appears to be very good at

  15. As long as there are Bird Cages…there shall be a need for the NYT!

  16. Lefties love to say “Trump is a liar” as if that ends all arguments and excuses all sins by the Left.

    Well we know that Lefties are on par with Trump for mendacity.

    Now watch all the Lefty bloggers come on and split hairs – as if we (all Americans) weren’t lied to by the media.

    TDS is so severe that the Lefty bloggers will try to excuse the inherent dishonesty of the media.

    I said it before; Lefties lie to us, lie to each other, and lie to themselves.

    1. Monument,

      You forgot to say that the “media is the enemy of the people.” What’s wrong with you?

    1. Yes, tiring, but frightening as well. Combined with the propaganda we get from the NYTimes, NBC, CNN, NPR, CBS, MSNBC, ABC, USA Today, AP, FaceBook, Twitter, etc., all of which intentionally lie, censor and obfuscate, our nation is hanging on by a thread.

    2. The burden of journalism is to verify the truth of journalists claims, true or not true. Instead our joke of “journalism” is a fiasco. There are specifics accepted by journalists for years and years of questions to pursue (who, what, where, when, why, and how). I think there used to be seven inquiries but can’t remember (anyone please let me know. The “fact checkers” don’t deserve their job description. There are so many untruths in an evening of nightly news by all sources the time necessary to correct is limited. Leaving listeners with garbage. Which is repeated day after day, mostly by CNN (Cuomo and Lemon especially). The disservice of disinformation aired daily is unmeasurable. Individuals have to check facts through other sources. It is time consuming. Compared with numbers of distributing disinformation the time required is daunting.

      1. Why
        by Whom
        When & Where
        How it Went

        But the 5 Ws are what often comes to my own mind: Who, What, When, Where, Why

        1. Instead the post does:
          Who does this hurt (left or right)
          What is our overarching message (left of course)
          Which color were the people involved?
          How does this help the left or hurt the right?
          When do we report it to cause the (most or least) damage?

      2. Sandra says “There are so many untruths in an evening of nightly news by all sources“

        I’m glad you did not exclude Fox News, Newamax, One America News and Infowars. You seem very fair minded.

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