The Trump-nominated Inspector General of the Department of the Interior issued a report which he claims absolves the Trump administration of any responsibility for the violent dispersal of peaceful protestors at Lafayette Park. Like Barr’s false characterization of the Muller Report, it is being taken at face value by many mainstream media outlets, and of course is being triumphantly cited as dispositive by pro-Trump pundits:
The report does provide good evidence that the US Park Police had planned to clear Lafayette Park to install some fencing prior to the day of the attack. But in and of itself this isn’t remotely exonerating, as it still doesn’t account for either the precise timing or the way the dispersal was carried out. It’s theoretically possible that the decision to clear protestors in a particularly violent way (despite the utter lack of urgency of the justification/pretext) right before Trump’s photo-op is a pure coincidence, but that the two are related is the most reasonable inference to draw in the absence of clear evidence otherwise. As Ryan Cooper notes, the report doesn’t have anything like the goods here:
Contrary to Greenblatt’s summary, and the implication of all the above headlines (though the bodies of the articles are more accurately nuanced), the report does not firmly conclude that Trump’s visit had nothing to do with the park clearance, and more importantly, does not remotely count as a thorough investigation into that question.
Now, the report does say that the clearance had been planned for days to install some fencing, and that happened long before Trump decided to visit. But it also says that the specific time of the clearance had not been settled, and that at about 6:10 on that day, Attorney General Barr came out of the White House and asked the USPP commander: “Are these people still going to be here when [President Trump] comes out?” to which the commander responded, “Are you freaking kidding me?” and hung his head.
USPP personnel insisted to the IGthat Barr’s request did not affect their plans (a highly dubious assertion), but it was actually the Secret Service who initiated the park clearance. “At approximately 6:16 p.m., contrary to the operational plan and before the USPP gave the first dispersal warning, the Secret Service entered H Street from Madison Place … the Secret Service lieutenant later apologized for the early entry onto H Street during the operation but did not explain why it occurred.” About seven minutes later the clearance began in earnest.
A very obvious question would be whether Barr, or someone else from the White House, ordered the Secret Service to start attacking the protesters. The IG did not even try to figure this out: “[We] did not seek to interview Attorney General William Barr, White House personnel, Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) officers, MPD personnel, or Secret Service personnel,” it reads. The presence of the BOP is another giant question mark: “The USPP acting chief of police and the USPP incident commander told us they did not request the BOP’s assistance and did not know who dispatched them to Lafayette Park on June 1.” One wonders why they bothered even writing this report at all.
How big of a country-fried rube would you have to be to think that Barr expressing disappointment that protestors would be there to ruin Trump’s photo-op had nothing to do with federal law enforcement deciding to violently disperse protestors before the photo-op? Probably the kind that would take Barr’s self-serving summary of a major investigation into the Trump administration at face value too. At any rate, it’s ridiculous to assert that the report provides clear answers to questions it doesn’t even pretend to have investigated.
One thing that would help us get to the bottom of this would be to look into the role the Secret Service played in the violent dispersal. Only:
An investigation that went beyond the USPP and included other parties like the Secret Service would help shine more light on these unresolved ambiguities. Unfortunately, the DHS inspector general — who, like the Interior Department inspector general, is a Trump appointee — has already blocked an investigation that would have looked into the Secret Service’s role in the decision to clear protesters.
Nothing to see here! If a federal law enforcement agency puts the most charitable spin on its actions and doesn’t examine the actions of any other federal law enforcement agency that participated in the dispersal, that’s good enough for me, just like the word of Bill Barr.
…this post by Luppe Luppen is good too.