Law enforcement officials on the ground were ordered to clear the streets around Lafayette Square just before President Trump spoke Monday, a Justice Department official said.
Trump had directed Attorney General William P. Barr to personally “lead” the response to the unrest in D.C. on Monday night, according to a Justice Department spokeswoman. Less than an hour before police moved to clear the peaceful demonstrators from in front of Lafayette Square, Barr was spotted on video talking to officials at the scene.
The Justice Department official said that in the afternoon, Barr went to survey the scene and found the perimeter had not been extended. The attorney general conferred with law enforcement officials on the ground.
“He conferred with them to check on the status and basically said:
‘This needs to be done. Get it done,’ ” the Justice Department official said. Barr personally ordered law enforcement officials to clear the streets. The official defended Barr’s decision. “This plan was happening, regardless of any plans of the president,” the official said.
The Justice Department official said Barr “assumed that any resistance from the protesters of being moved would be met with typical crowd-control measures.”