Attorney General William Barr is expected to be questioned today about the Department of Justice’s role in the forceful clearing of protesters from Lafayette Square that took place in June ahead of President Trump’s photo-op outside St. John’s Church.
Barr has repeatedly defended the actions of federal law enforcement officers.
In his interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation” in early June, Barr said the protesters were moved because the Park Police wanted a larger security perimeter around the White House — not to aid the White House in staging President Trump’s subsequent photo.
The clearing, though, ultimately devolved into a discordant and violent spectacle, with federal law enforcement agents clashing with protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets about 30 minutes before a curfew was set to take effect in the nation’s capital. Barr was seen surveying the crowd shortly before law enforcement acted.
Barr, who has sought to distance himself from the official order to clear the protesters, also claimed in June that the protesters at Lafayette Square, which had become the center of attention for the ongoing demonstrations, were violent. There is no evidence of that claim, and CNN personnel on the scene reported the protesters were peaceful.
“They were not peaceful protesters. And that’s one of the big lies that the media is — seems to be perpetuating at this point,” Barr claimed. “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.”
Some background: As CNN has previously reported, Barr appeared in Lafayette Square shortly before 6 p.m. ET, about an hour before Trump left the White House. In a scene that was captured on news cameras, Barr stood flanked by a security detail, his chief of staff and the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.
As Barr surveyed the situation around the park, some protesters spotted and recognized him, and shouts went up.
A Justice Department official previously told CNN that Barr had been told that police believed protesters were gathering rocks to throw at law enforcement, and while he was in the park, water bottles were thrown in his direction.
CNN did not witness any water bottles being thrown at the attorney general.