House Democrats are insisting that four federal agencies justify Monday’s decision to clear out demonstrators from Lafayette Square ahead of President Donald Trump’s photo-op walk to St. John’s Church.
On Wednesday, four Democratic chairmen wrote to Attorney General William Barr, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf seeking information and a briefing by next week on who gave the order to clear the park, which federal agencies were involved and what measures and authorizations were used.
“On Monday, we watched in horror as federal officers, mounted on horseback and clad in riot gear, used tear gas, pepper spray, smoke cannisters, stun grenades, and rubber bullets to forcibly remove peaceful protestors from public space adjacent to the White House. We want to be clear: the use of federal personnel to prevent American citizens from exercising their Constitutional right to peaceably assemble represents a direct threat to our democracy,” wrote Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York, Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva of Arizona, Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith of Washington and Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi.
The letter is the latest push among Congressional Democrats to scrutinize the President’s decision to clear the park, and it reflects an effort to jointly push for data on an action spread across multiple federal agencies that reacted to Washington’s protests. Over the last year, the Trump administration has stonewalled much of the oversight efforts of House Democrats.
According to a Justice Department spokesperson, on Tuesday it was eventually Barr who ordered the push to clear demonstrators. In response to fires and destruction on Sunday night, Barr and other top officials from agencies responsible for securing the White House had planned to secure a larger perimeter around Lafayette Square.
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