President Donald Trump walked to a church near Washington D.C.’s Lafayette Park last June so he could pose with a Bible and denounce the racial justice protests sweeping the country. But that isn’t why police officers used tear gas on peaceful protestors just before he arrived, according to an Interior Department Inspector General report published Wednesday. Inspector General Mark Greenblatt made the bombshell—and bizarre—claim that protestors were cleared so a contractor could install fencing after protests led to the destruction of some surrounding federal property. Approval was given earlier in the day by then-Attorney General Bill Barr, though Barr ordered the National Park Police to expedite it just before President Trump’s arrival.
The use of tear gas, the report says, was a surprise to the Park Police. But while Greenblatt made no judgment on whether the decision was correct, he affirmed that it was lawful. The protestors had been peaceful until police arrived, deploying forceful shoves and tear gas. The Trump administration consistently denied the use of tear gas, despite photographic evidence showing gas canisters in the aftermath.