The Secret Service recommended that President Donald Trump go into the White House bunker as violent demonstrations and riots raged in Washington, Attorney General William Barr said.
Recounting what took place on June 1, Barr said: “We were reacting to three days of extremely violent demonstrations right across from the White House. A lot of injuries to police officers, arson.”
“Things were so bad that the Secret Service recommended the president go down to the bunker,” he said. “We can’t have that in our country.”
Barr was speaking to Fox News’ Bret Baier in an interview that aired on June 8.
Trump said last week in an interview on Fox News radio that he did go to the bunker but said he was there to inspect it, not for refuge.
The president said that a report describing his descent into the bunker as driven by fear for his personal safety was false, adding: “I went down during the day, and I was there for a tiny, little short period of time, and it was much more for an inspection.”
Pressed on whether the Secret Service told him he had to go to the bunker, Trump said: “No. They didn’t tell me that at all, but they said it would be a good time to go down. Take a look, because maybe sometime you’re going to need it.”
Trump said later: “I was down for a very, very short period of time. Very, very short period of time. I can’t tell you who went with me, but a whole group of people went with me. As an inspecting factor, I was back-up. And Brian, it was during the day. It wasn’t during the night. I think they reported during the night. During the night maybe someday it makes sense. During the day, you have tremendous numbers of people. We didn’t even have protestors, or if they did, it was a small crowd.”
Barr, in the new interview, defended having law enforcement push protesters away from the White House, which was followed by Trump walking to nearby St. John’s Church.
The decision to move the perimeter a block away was made by the Park Police in the early morning hours of June 1 before being affirmed by Barr and other officials. They wanted to fortify the area with stronger fencing. The plan was executed at 2 p.m.
Asked whether he’s concerned about an image promoted by some outlets that Lafayette Park was cleared so Trump could walk to the church, Barr said: “The image 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.”
Noting that he personally witnessed projectiles being thrown at officers—with two projectiles being thrown at himself—by demonstrators, Barr shared the view that it was appropriate for a president to walk to the church, which has long hosted commanders-in-chiefs.
“The president of the United States should be able to walk one block from the White House to the church of the presidents. He should be able to do that,” Barr said.
“This canard that this exercise was done to make that possible was totally false. I don’t see anything wrong with the president walking over to the church.”