It's too late to rewrite history on the Lafayette Square scandal

Trump boasted that the clearing of Lafayette Square was "handled very well." If that were true, the White House wouldn't have to lie about what happened.
President Donald Trump holds a Bible while visiting St. John's Church across from the White House after the area was cleared of protesters on June 1, 2020.
President Donald Trump holds a Bible while visiting St. John's Church across from the White House after the area was cleared of protesters on June 1, 2020.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images
Get the Msnbc newsletter.
SUBSCRIBE
By Steve Benen

Late Monday afternoon, a group of peaceful protestors were removed by force from Lafayette Square, across from the north side of the White House. Once a path was cleared, Donald Trump walked across the park, posed briefly in front of a nearby church, held up a Bible, and then returned to the White House. It was an ugly and un-American scene, which has already been labeled one of the "defining moments" of the Republican's presidency.

For his part, Trump argued on Twitter a day later, "People liked my walk to this historic place of worship!" The president added on Fox Radio yesterday, "The church leaders loved that I went there with a Bible."

In reality, the Lafayette Square scandal has drawn international attention -- and not in a good way. Multiple Senate Republicans have publicly expressed their discomfort with Team Trump's heavy-handed tactics; many leaders from the faith community have been unrestrained in their criticisms; and several retired U.S. military leaders have pointed to the offensive against peaceful protestors as plainly unacceptable.

It's against this backdrop that the Washington Post reports that the White House is trying to "rewrite history," just days after cameras captured what actually happened.

The president and his team have offered a string of conflicting explanations and excuses for why protesters were cleared from the area around Lafayette Square in front of the White House, what methods were used to remove them and who was ultimately responsible for the decision.

One of the first claims was that the park was cleared as part of an effort to enforce a curfew. That wasn't true. Kellyanne Conway argued soon after that Trump's photo-op in front of historic St. John's Episcopal Church wasn't a photo-op. That wasn't true, either.

There were some suggestions that security forces' offensive against peaceful protestors was unrelated to the president's block-long stroll. That wasn't true. The White House went on to make the case that security forces acted in self-defense. That wasn't even close to being true.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany rolled out a new defense for the scandal yesterday, arguing that Trump's photo-op was similar to Winston Churchill "inspecting the bombing damage" during World War II. And while it's true that the giant of British history did venture out after German blitzes, there's no record of 10 Downing Street ever ordering security forces to launch an offensive against British citizens in a public park so that Churchill could safely pose for the cameras.

Laughable spin aside, interest in this scandal among lawmakers is quite real, and yesterday, four Democratic House committee chairs starting demanding answers from Trump administration cabinet secretaries. The deadline for information: June 10.

Similarly, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, wrote to Secret Service Director James Murray, demanding a briefing on Monday's events no later than tomorrow. Thompson described himself as "stunned, disturbed, and furious."

Trump boasted to former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, now a Newsmax host, that the clearing of Lafayette Square was "handled very well." The number of people who agree is dwindling.