During House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry in late 2019, Georgetown University law professor Jonathan Turley was the GOP’s star witness and argued against impeaching President Donald Trump. But when Turley spoke to the House Natural Resources Committee this week, he asserted that if the clearing of Lafayette Square by Washington, D.C. police on June 1 was merely a “photo-op” for Trump, Attorney General William Barr needs to resign.
On June 1, nonviolent protesters were violently removed from Lafayette Square in order for Trump and others to walk from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church — where Trump gave a speech and was photographed holding up a copy of the Holy Bible.
Turley, according to the New York Daily News’ Michael McAuliff, told House Natural Resources that removing the protesters was, in itself, probably legal. But the Georgetown law professor asserted that if Barr did it merely for a “photo-op” and not strictly for security purposes, the U.S. attorney general should resign.
“If Attorney General Barr cleared that area for the purpose of the photo-op, I would immediately call for him to step down, because that would be an outrageous abuse of power,” Turley told House Natural Resources.
However, Turley also testified that clearing Lafayette Square could possibly be justified on security grounds because 50 officers had suffered injuries during the protests and St. John’s had been the target of an arson attack.
Turley told House Natural Resources, “Whether the president’s photo-op played a role in the size of the perimeter — the decision to move people all the way to I Street, for example — those are things that are legitimate questions. If this was done to intimidate people, you know, this would be a serious problem.”
Protesters were not the only ones who suffered injuries when police attacked Lafayette Square with pepper spray, batons and rubber bullets on June 1; some members of the media were injured as well, including Australian reporter Amelia Brace — who told House Natural Resources that a police officer attacked her with a truncheon.
Turley testified, “The attack on the Australian journalists appeared entirely unjustified and unlawful.”
Mariann Budde, Episcopal bishop for St. John’s Church and Washington, D.C., has been vehemently critical of the way in which Lafayette Square was cleared on June 1— and at the House Natural Resources hearing, Budde testified, “When the president held up a Bible outside our church, as if to claim the mantle of spiritual authority over what had just transpired, I knew that I had to speak. Nowhere does the Bible condone the use of violence against the innocent.”