After a year of being told that President Donald Trump cleared protestors from Washington, DC's, Lafayette Park to accommodate his narcissistic need for a photo opportunity in front of the vandalized St. John's Church, it was revealed that this narrative was entirely a media fabrication.
CNN had to admit that it was true, but even given direct evidence of their having been completely wrong a year ago when they made their claims, they could not simply walk it back. "Tell us what we're learning, and tell us what this means, tell us if this raises more questions than it answers," CNN anchor Brianna Keilar said.
Jim Acosta was happy to oblige, saying "Well I certainly think it raises more questions than it answers. Y'know, the IG report is saying that the Parks Police cleared the park with the purpose of setting up this fence, because obviously the protestors needed to be moved back from this area where they were defacing statues, and potentially pulling down the Andrew Jackson statue, and so on.
"I was in the Rose Garden that day when Trump gave that speech and said 'I'm going to go to that special place,' talking about the church, and you could hear the Park Police and other federal forces, DC police, clearing that park, violently pummeling protestors, tear gassing protestors. Remember at the time the White House was telling us 'oh, we didn't use tear gas.' DC police were using tear gas," Acosta said.
"The other thing is unclear about all of this, y'know, is what did the White House know at this time? According to the Inspector General's report they did not speak to senior White House officials, they did not speak to the Secret Service. So this certainly raises more questions. And I have to say, y'know, when I read through this report it sounded like the Inspector General was auditioning to become the Inspector General at Mar-a-Lago.
"Because I mean this is almost a white wash of what occurred on June 1. These protestors were largely demonstrating peacefully, and were violently cleared from that park. It was just a huge blow to the first amendment I think, in this country," Acosta said despite evidence. "You can't have protestors pummeled by police officers especially when they're trying to make a statement about racial justice in this country."
MSNBC didn't want to be left out, and made their claims in an attempt to uphold their false reporting from a year ago. Morning Joe straight-up mocks the IG report, and Joe Scarborough briefly gets June 1, the date of the alleged photo op, confused with January 6. They claim that the protests at Lafayette Square, where historic St. John's Church was set on fire and vandals were trying to tear down statues, were mostly peaceful.
CNN and MSNBC weren't the only outlets to take the bizarre claim that the President cleared the park so that he could have photos taken. Nearly every major outlet ran with the story, and CNN's fact checker Daniel Dale posted a tweet in February 2021 still claiming the story was real.
At the time, only Courthouse News posted that the story was not as it seemed.
The report from the Office of Inspector General revealed that in response to previous days of violent protests, "On the morning of June 1, the Secret Service procured antiscale fencing to establish a more secure perimeter around Lafayette Park that was to be delivered and installed that same day. The USPP, in coordination with the Secret Service, determined that it was necessary to clear protesters from the area in and around the park to enable the contractor’s employees to safely install the fence."
"The USPP planned to implement the operation as soon as the fencing materials and sufficient law enforcement officers arrived at the park. Six other law enforcement agencies assisted the USPP and the Secret Service in the operation to clear and secure areas near the park," the report continues.
The operation to begin clearing the park started at 2:23 pm and was completed by 6:50 pm. President Trump walked over to St. John's Church through Lafayette plaza at 7:01 pm. The fence was installed by a contractor from 7:30 pm to 12:30 am on June 2.
"We found that the USPP had the authority and discretion to clear Lafayette Park and the surrounding areas on June 1," the report states. "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."
"Instead, the evidence we reviewed showed that the USPP cleared the park to allow the contractor to safely install the antiscale fencing in response to destruction of property and injury to officers occurring on May 30 and 31," said the report. "Further, the evidence showed that the USPP did not know about the President’s potential movement until mid- to late afternoon on June 1—hours after it had begun developing its operational plan and the fencing contractor had arrived in the park," it went on to say.
"We also found that although the USPP used a soundamplifying long-range acoustic device to issue three dispersal warnings to the crowd on June 1, not everyone could hear the warnings. Furthermore, we found that the USPP does not have a detailed dispersal warning policy applicable to operations like the one that occurred on June 1 and that this may have led to the ineffective warnings issued to the crowd that day," the report states.
"Finally, we found that the USPP and the Secret Service did not use a shared radio channel to communicate, that the USPP primarily conveyed information orally to assisting law enforcement entities, that an assisting law enforcement entity arrived late and may not have received a full briefing on the rules of engagement, and that several law enforcement officers could not clearly hear the incident commander’s dispersal warnings," the report continues.
"These weaknesses in communication and coordination may have contributed to confusion during the operation and the use of tactics that appeared inconsistent with the incident commander’s operational plan."