Fact Check: Did Trump order police to clear Lafayette Park for photo op?

NOT EXACTLY NEWS – The left-wing media and the Democrats in June of 2020 collaborated a fake news story that detailed how former U.S. President Donald J. Trump used U.S. Park Police, armed with riot gear and tear gas to clear Lafayette Square Park to fulfill a presidential photo op.

Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer were the primary conspirators of the false claim.

“We call on you to immediately reopen Lafayette Square to the public, a place which has long been a venue where Americans can gather to freely exercise their constitutional rights in close proximity to the White House,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer published in a release. “On June 1, 2020, you were responsible for ordering federal officers to force peaceful protesters from the Square using tear gas and other violent means, in clear violation of the protesters’ First Amendment rights of free of speech and assembly. This deeply offensive action was taken in service of the regrettable political stunt you staged at St. John’s Church that evening.”

The liberal news media immediately jumped on the story, despite officials within the U.S. Park Police service adamantly denying their fake news reports.

Here are some headlines from the day:

AP – Tear gas, threats for protesters before Trump visits church
NBC – Police, National Guard clash with protesters to clear streets before Trump photo op
ABC – Trump calls tear gas reports ‘fake news,’ but protesters’ eyes burned just the same

On June 9th, 2021, President Joe Biden’s Office of the Inspector General cleared Trump and Park Police of any wrongdoing.

Trump responds to exoneration

Thank you to the Department of the Interior Inspector General for Completely and Totally exonerating me in the clearing of Lafayette Park! As we have said all along, and it was backed up in today’s highly detailed and professionally written report, our fine Park Police made the decision to clear the park to allow a contractor to safely install antiscale fencing to protect from Antifa rioters, radical BLM protestors, and other violent demonstrators who are causing chaos and death to our cities. In this instance, they tried burning down the church the day before the clearing. Fortunately, we were there to stop the fire from spreading beyond the basement—and it was our great honor and privilege to do so. Again, thank you to the Inspector General!

President Donald J. Trump

Below is the report released by the OIG:

My office is releasing today our report addressing the actions of the U.S. Park Police (USPP) to disperse protesters in and around Lafayette Park in Washington, DC, on June 1, 2020.

This report, which we anticipate is the first of a number of projects examining aspects of the events of June 1, focuses on what occurred from an operational perspective—namely, when and how the USPP, in coordination with its law enforcement partners, made the decision to clear the park, and how it developed and executed its plan to do so. Although we do not have oversight authority over the USPP’s law enforcement partners, we obtained information from them throughout our review, particularly when doing so would provide us with insight into the USPP’s own activities.

Over the course of this review, our career investigative staff conducted extensive witness interviews, reviewed video footage from numerous vantage points, listened to radio transmissions from multiple law enforcement entities, and examined evidence including emails, text messages, telephone records, procurement documents, and other related materials.

This report presents a thorough, independent examination of that evidence to assess the USPP’s decision making and operations, including a detailed timeline of relevant actions and an analysis of whether the USPP’s actions complied with governing policies. The evidence we reviewed showed that the USPP cleared the park to allow a contractor to safely install antiscale fencing in response to destruction of Federal property and injury to officers that occurred on May 30 and May 31. Moreover, the evidence established that relevant USPP officials had made those decisions and had begun implementing the operational plan several hours before they knew of a potential Presidential visit to the park, which occurred later that day. As such, we determined that the evidence did not support a finding that the USPP cleared the park on June 1, 2020, so that then President Trump could enter the park.

We also found weaknesses with the operation to clear the park, including the U.S. Secret Service’s deployment before the USPP had begun its dispersal warnings and the USPP’s failure to provide dispersal warnings that were loud enough for everyone to hear and that told protesters where to exit before the clearing operation began. We make two recommendations to the USPP to improve its handling of future engagements of this type, and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) stated that it will implement changes in accordance with our recommendations. We believe that if the DOI implements the recommendations from our review of the events of June 1 in Lafayette Park to future activities, USPP efforts to protect these locations and those who visit them will improve for similar operations.

This report does not address allegations of individual use-of-force incidents, as those are the subject of separate inquiries as well as ongoing lawsuits. We will continue to provide independent, objective oversight of the DOI’s activities to support it in improving its programs and procedures and specifically note that we anticipate conducting additional work pertaining to law enforcement operations, including projects addressing the DOI’s use of tasers, body-worn cameras, and radio communications.

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