Barr blasts 'canard' that Park Police cleared out protesters to let Trump visit church: 'Totally false'

Attorney General William Barr told "Special Report" Monday that the claim law enforcement forcefully expanded a protest perimeter around the White House last week so President Trump could visit St. John Church for a photo op last week is a "canard."

Barr told host Bret Baier that the decision to expand the perimeter was made the previous evening, after protests over the death of George Floyd gave way to looting and violence, including a fire that damaged part of the Episcopal church on Lafayette Park.

"Based on what I know now, no," Barr told Baier when asked if he would do anything differently.

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"On Monday, we were reacting to three days of extremely violent demonstrations right across from the White House," Barr said. "[We had] a lot of injuries to the police officers, arson -- things were so bad the Secret Service recommended the president go down to the [White House] bunker and we can't have that in our country. So the decision was made: We had to move the perimeter one block and that is what we were doing."

Barr claimed he had no advance warning that Trump would leave the White House grounds on the evening of June 1 and cross Lafayette Park to St. John's Church.

"I found out later in the afternoon [Monday] he might go outside of the White House," the attorney general said. "But like I said, the decision to move outside of the perimeter was initially made Sunday night by the [U.S.] Park Police; in the early morning hours."

Barr said he agreed with the U.S. Park Police's proposal when he came to work Monday morning in order to "fortify" and "give some breathing space."

"The image [of Trump and the Bible] has somewhat been created and miscreated in [the] sense that I haven't seen any videos on TV of all the violence that was happening preceding that," he added.

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The attorney general said he went to Lafayette Park before the perimeter was expanded and was targeted by projectiles thrown by several protesters, causing his security detail to prevent him from moving in certain directions.

"Projectiles had been landing in a certain area -- things like rocks and bottles," he said.

Barr emphasized that the decision for Trump to go to the church was separate from the decision to move the perimeter, and insisted that both decisions were proper.

"The president of the United States should be able to walk one block from the White House out to the Church of the Presidents," he said of the former. "And this canard that this exercise was done to make that possible is totally false."