Donald Trump had quite the evening yesterday, holding a Rose Garden presser where he vowed to unleash the force of the US military on protesters, had Lafayette Park next to the White House tear gassed and cleared by a platoon of DC cops and the National Guard, and then strolled through the park to have a photo op at St. John's Episcopal Church a couple blocks away with his cabinet and White House staff.
The bishop of the church, Rev. Mariann Budde, was pissed.
The Right Rev. Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, was seething.
President Trump had just visited St. John’s Episcopal Church, which sits across from the White House. It was a day after a fire was set in the basement of the historic building amid protests over the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police.
Before heading to the church, where presidents have worshiped since the days of James Madison, Trump gave a speech at the White House emphasizing the importance of law and order. Federal officers then used force to clear a large crowd of peaceful demonstrators from the street between the White House and the church, apparently so Trump could make the visit.
“I am outraged,” Budde said in a telephone interview a short time later, pausing between words to emphasize her anger as her voice slightly trembled.
She said she had not been given any notice that Trump would be visiting the church and did not approve of the manner in which the area was secured for his appearance.
“I am the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and was not given even a courtesy call, that they would be clearing [the area] with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop,” Budde said.
She excoriated the president for standing in front of the church — its windows boarded up with plywood — holding up a Bible, which Budde said “declares that God is love.”
“Everything he has said and done is to inflame violence,” Budde of the president. “We need moral leadership, and he’s done everything to divide us.”
In a written statement, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, head of the Episcopal denomination, accused Trump of using “a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan political purposes.”
“This was done in a time of deep hurt and pain in our country, and his action did nothing to help us or to heal us,” Curry wrote.
“The prophet Micah taught that the Lord requires us to ‘do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God,’ ” he continued, calling on Trump and others in power to be moral. “For the sake of George Floyd, for all who have wrongly suffered, and for the sake of us all, we need leaders to help us to be ‘one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.’ ”
Trump wanted his photo op because he was mad that the press made fun of him for hiding in a bunker Sunday night. Oh, and he threatened Americans with military force. The Pentagon is openly saying this is a bad idea.
Defense officials tell CNN there was deep and growing discomfort among some in the Pentagon even before President Donald Trump announced Monday that he is ready to deploy the military to enforce order inside the United States.
As tear gas wafted through the air in Lafayette Park across from the White House, Trump announced from the Rose Garden that if state or city leaders refuse "to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents," he will invoke the Insurrection Act, an 1807 law that allows a president to deploy the US military to suppress civil disorder.
But some Pentagon officials are deeply wary, several defense officials tell CNN. They have tried to respond by making a strong case that the situation does not yet call for deploying active duty troops unless state governors make a clear argument such forces are needed.
"There is an intense desire for local law enforcement to be in charge," a defense official said, alluding to the laws that forbid the military from performing law enforcement roles inside the United States.
There is also discomfort with the civil order mission among some National Guard troops -- more of whom are now mobilized inside the US than at any previous time in history.
The Pentagon clearly doesn't want this, but what happens when Trump orders it anyway?
It may be the single most important answer in decades. And yes, COVID-19 didn't just go away, folks. We still have that to deal with too.