An Interior Department watchdog said Wednesday that U.S. park police (“USPP”) cleared Black Lives Matter protesters from Lafayette Park near the White House last June to erect fencing around the area, not to make way for former President Donald Trump’s walk to St. John’s church. The department’s inspector general said the commander in charge of clearing out the crowd didn’t know of Trump’s plans to walk through the park to the church before plans were already in motion to disperse protesters, and the USPP said that they sought to clear the area in order to erect anti-scale fencing around the park in response to violence and vandalism experienced during previous days’ protests.

The inspector general’s office said: “We found that the USPP had the authority and discretion to clear Lafayette Park and the surrounding areas on June 1. 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. 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.”

Trump, in a statement on his website, thanked the inspector general for “completely and totally exonerating me in the clearing of Lafayette Park.” He added: “As we have said all along, and it was backed up in today’s highly detailed and professionally written report, our fine Park Police made the decision to clear the park to allow a contractor to safely install anti-scale fencing to protect from Antifa rioters, radical BLM protestors, and other violent demonstrators who are causing chaos and death to our cities. In this instance, they tried burning down the church the day before the clearing. Fortunately, we were there to stop the fire from spreading beyond the basement — and it was our great honor and privilege to do so. Again, thank you to the Inspector General!”

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