White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Wednesday that President Trump was right to say earlier in the day that he didn’t instruct authorities to push back protesters so he could visit St. John’s church across the street from the White House for a photo opportunity.
“The attorney general decided that morning to expand the perimeter and that was a decision made long before the church discussion was ever in consideration. When the President gives an order, people act. It’s not as if he’s walked through each and every detail of how a plan goes about,” McEnany told reporters during a press briefing.
“He says, ‘I want to go to the church.’ He goes to the church. Everyone executes the plan in the order that the President puts into place. So the President is absolutely right in what he said.”
Some background: The White House is facing ongoing fallout from the events of Monday evening, where peaceful protesters were forcefully dispersed 30 minutes before a curfew was set to take effect, so Trump could participate in the photo opportunity with a Bible outside the church.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump claimed he was unaware of the tactics used to clear the park ahead of his visit – even though press widely reported the explosions could be heard from his address in the Rose Garden.
When I said go to the church, I didn’t know, protesters or not, nobody tells me that. They say, ‘Yes sir, we’ll go to the church,’” he said, claiming law enforcement in the area “didn’t use tear gas,” which is untrue, according to the definition of tear gas used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
McEnany said she wasn’t aware of the determinations the US Secret Service made ahead of Trump’s walk to the church.
She later said the scene would have looked different if demonstrators had moved back when she says announcements were made three times over a loudspeaker telling the protesters to move back.
The forced removal of protesters by federal law enforcement officials, including the US Park Police, was widely criticized by DC’s city leaders, St. John’s church officials, and multiple clergy members from other faiths.