The U.S. Department of Interior's Office of the Inspector General has released its findings of a probe into law enforcement's actions on June 1 of last year, when police removed protesters from Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., ahead of then-President Donald Trump's stroll through the area to St. John's Church, which was damaged after protesters set it on fire.
The watchdog's review found that authorities made the decision to clear out the park in order to install fencing amid ongoing rioting in the area following the death of George Floyd, and not for the purpose of allowing the president a photo op as many Trump critics claimed at the time.
What are the details?
Inspector General Mark Lee Greenblatt's report explains that on June 1, 2020, the Secret Service and United States Park Police decided to clear protesters from Lafayette Park in order to allow a contractor to install antiscale fencing the Secret Service obtained that morning.
The Secret Service wanted to make the perimeter around the square more secure, after "at least 49 USPP officers were injured while policing the protests" in the area just from May 30 to 31.
"We found that the USPP had the authority and discretion to clear Lafayette Park and the surrounding areas on June 1," the report states, adding, "The evidence we obtained did not support a finding that the USPP cleared the park to allow the President to survey the damage and walk to St. John's Church."
NBC News reported:
That finding, published Wednesday, is likely to surprise many critics of Trump, who have long asserted that the president or his attorney general ordered the operation to pave the way for an act of political theater. That is also the central allegation of a federal lawsuit by Black Lives Matter against the Justice Department.
In reaction to the IG's report, Trump issued a statement saying, "Thank you to the Department of the Interior Inspector General for Completely and Totally exonerating me in the clearing of Lafayette Park!"
He added, "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."
One of the people who accused Trump last year of ordering the park cleared for a photo op was then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
On June 1, 2020, Biden tweeted of Trump, "He's using the American military against the American people. He tear-gassed peaceful protesters and fired rubber bullets. For a photo. For our children, for the very soul of our country, we must defeat him. But I mean it when I say this: we can only do it together."