Donald Trump has done some amazingly puzzling things over the last three and half years, but this will rank high up there when his presidency is all said and done. While the impeached President addressed the media, claiming to support “peaceful protests,” Washington D.C. Park Police were using tear gas and flash grenades on peaceful protesters in adjacent Lafayette Square to clear the way for the President to…
Take a Photo.
With a bible.
A borrowed bible.
After Trump delivered his brief remarks in the Rose Garden, where he claimed to support the rights of peaceful protesting, U.S. Park Police and National Guard troops around 6:30 p.m. ET began using tear gas and flash grenades against protesters, sending them running in all directions.
The President – who also threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 law which means deploying active duty US soldiers – then marched across the park with a borrowed bible and positioned himself in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. A church that was closed and damaged during protests.
US News reports the order came from Attorney General William Barr.
Sources told NBC News that Trump’s unannounced walk to the church “was his idea” because he “wanted the visual.” The president was frustrated by news reports that Secret Service officers ushered him to the White House bunker during Friday night’s unrest.
The photo op was as awkward as the pictures seemed to show.
“What the hell did we just watch?!” tweeted Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla.
The Rev. Mariann Budde, bishop of the Washington diocese, said Tuesday that Trump held up the Bible in front of St. John’s “as if it were a prop or an extension of his military and authoritarian position.”
During an interview with Craig Melvin on NBC’s Today show, Budde called Trump’s actions an abuse of the spiritual tools and symbols of our traditions and of our sacred space.”
She added, “He didn’t come to church to pray, he didn’t come to church to offer condolences to those who are grieving. He didn’t come to commit to healing our nation, all the things that we would expect and long for from the highest leader in the land.”
Budde noted that the President Trump didn’t inform the diocese about his photo opportunity.”The only time that President Trump has been at St. John’s church as president was on the morning of his inauguration.”
Biden condemns Trump
Presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden condemned Trump on Tuesday. The candidate then pledged to offer a break from the “selfishness and fear” that he said have marked Trump’s tenure in office and response to protests against racism and police brutality.
Biden then addressed systemic racism and empathized with those who are protesting across the nation in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. Below are excerpts from Biden’s speech.
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“I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. George Floyd’s last words. But they didn’t die with him. They’re still being heard. They’re echoing across this nation. Retailers are offering major sales in honor of healthcare workers. If you’re a medical professional or first responder, you can find savings on a variety of products that might make life a little easier right now.
They speak to a nation where too often just the color of your skin puts your life at risk. They speak to a nation where more than 100,000 people have lost their lives to a virus — and 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment — with a disproportionate number of these deaths and job losses concentrated in black and brown communities.And they speak to a nation where every day millions of people — not at the moment of losing their life — but in the course of living their life — are saying to themselves,
I can’t breathe.”It’s a wake-up call for our nation. For all of us.And I mean all of us. It’s not the first time we’ve heard these words — they’re the same words we heard from Eric Garner when his life was taken six years ago.But it’s time to listen to these words. Understand them.
And respond to them — with real action.The country is crying out for leadership. Leadership that can unite us. Leadership that can bring us together. Leadership that can recognize the pain and deep grief of communities that have had a knee on their neck for too long.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., issued a joint statement saying that Trump is “ripping” the country apart when Americans are crying out for unity.
“Tear-gassing peaceful protesters without provocation just so that the president could pose for photos outside a church dishonors every value that faith teaches us. We call upon the president, law enforcement and all entrusted with responsibility to respect the dignity and rights of all Americans,” Pelosi and Schumer said.
The two Democratic leaders added the nation needs “real leadership” during this challenging time and added, “The president’s continued fanning of the flames of discord, bigotry and violence is cowardly, weak and dangerous.”
Several other lawmakers also described Trump as fascist, including Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who tweeted: “The fascist speech Donald Trump just delivered verged on a declaration of war against American citizens. I fear for our country tonight and will not stop defending America against Trump’s assault.”
“Fascism in the flesh,” tweeted Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J.
Addressing Trump directly about the police tear-gassing peaceful demonstrators, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., tweeted, “The Bible can’t help you if you don’t open it.”
“He handled the Bible like the ape handled the bone in ‘2001:A Space Odyssey.'”
Finally Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in and said, “We all watch in horror and consternation, what’s going on in the United States.'”
GOP defends Trump
Republicans, as has come to be expected, supported Trump’s decision.
“Historic moment as @POTUS Trump reclaims St. John’s Church for America! God Bless America!!” tweeted Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.
“Incredibly powerful moment as @realDonaldTrump walked to St. John’s Church, where every past president since Madison has prayed for the wellbeing of our country. We must come together as a country, and I thank @POTUS for leading the effort to protect law and order,” tweeted Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo.
The walk Trump made “through the burned out and graffiti-covered Lafayette Park,” Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, tweeted, “was a powerful reminder that Americans will not be intimidated by lawlessness and violence.”
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser blasted Trump for what police did to demonstrators outside the White House, which occurred before the 7 p.m. ET curfew she had instituted for the city.
“I imposed a curfew at 7 pm. A full 25 minutes before the curfew & w/o provocation, federal police used munitions on peaceful protestors in front of the White House, an act that will make the job of @DCPoliceDept officers more difficult. Shameful! DC residents — Go home. Be safe,” Bowser tweeted.
Sources told NBC the White House thinks the photo-op was successful and “went great.”