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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) walks down H Street in Washington, D.C. after visiting the protestors at Lafayette Square in front of the White House on June 2, 2020. (Photo: W.G. Dunlop/AFP via Getty Images)

Sen. Warren Demands Federal Probe Into Attorney General Barr's Order to Tear-Gas Peaceful Protesters

"These attacks on peaceful American protesters steps from the White House were sickening and appalling."

Julia Conley

Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday evening demanded answers regarding the Trump administration's violent dispersal of protesters near the White House Monday night, when federal police sprayed tear gas and flash-bang grenades to clear Lafayette Park of dozens of demonstrators.

The Massachusetts Democrat wrote to the inspectors general of the Department of Justice and the Pentagon to call for investigations into reports that Attorney General William Barr personally ordered the assault and into any role the military has played in the administration's response to the nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. 

"This 'ambush' of American citizens who were protesting the killing of Mr. Floyd at the hands of a police officer was created to allow the president to partake in a blatantly political photo opportunity," wrote Warren in her letter to Michael Horowitz, the DOJ inspector general.  

Barr was part of President Donald Trump's entourage Monday night during a walk to St. John's Church to pose holding a Bible. Ahead of leaving with the president for the photo-op, Barr reportedly stood near a police line and watched the protesters in the moments before the police began tear gassing them.

The Washington Post reported later that Barr had personally directed the police action. 

"The role of Attorney General Barr in ordering this attack and then participating in an ugly political propaganda event with the president, and the potential roles of DOJ law enforcement personnel, raises troubling questions about how and why this attack against law-abiding citizens occurred," Warren wrote. 

The attack came shortly after Trump threatened to invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act to send the military to states where he believes officials are not controlling the demonstrations effectively. 

Earlier Monday, the president held a conference call with governors from across the U.S., telling them to "dominate" the tens of thousands of people who have taken to streets in cities both large and small.

"You have to dominate, if you don't dominate you're wasting your time," Trump said. "You have to use the military... We have our military ready, willing, and able, if they ever want to call our military."

Defense Secretary Mark Esper reportedly urged governors to "dominate the battle space"—meaning American cities and streets—in the call. 

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that low-flying military helicopters spotted flying over Washington, D.C. protests were ordered by Trump. 

"I am requesting that you conduct an immediate investigation of the role of DOD civilian and military officials in the attack on peaceful protesters and the response to the nationwide protests that began in May 2020," Warren wrote

According to Business Insider, the Pentagon on Monday moved 1,600 soldiers to positions surrounding Washington, D.C.

Esper told NBC News Tuesday that he did not believe the president needs to use the Insurrection Act to respond to protests. He also said he had no prior knowledge of Trump's plan to disperse protesters and then be photographed at St. John's Church until it happened. 

On Tuesday, Warren attended another rally in the nation's capital, where about 2,000 protesters gathered steps away from where the tear-gassing had happened—the largest demonstration the city has seen since they began last week.

"Nothing changes if we don't speak out," the senator told the Washington Post of her presence at the rally. 


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