On June 1, 2020, peaceful protesters assembled across the street from the White House in Lafayette Park to protest the killing of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers. The protesters had assembled peacefully in the park as they had the right to do under the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. 


Still stinging from media reports over the previous weekend that he had fled into a secure White House bunker for personal safety after hearing the chants of protesters in front of the White House. Trump decided to stage a political photo op to show a “strongman” image in a crisis. The soon to be infamous photo op would take place at the St. John’s Episcopal Church located across the street from the White House. 


The problem was that the President and his administration stooges would have to walk across Lafayette Square to reach the church—an area occupied by protesters. That’s where Barr comes into the picture. 


Either late Sunday afternoon (May 31) or early Monday morning (June 1) Barr instructed U.S. Park Police, through Justice Department intermediaries, to move the protesters further away from the White House. Later Monday, Barr was televised on the cable news outlets walking in an area between the White House and the protesters amid chants against his presence. The Attorney General was not pleased that his instructions to move the protesters further away from the White House had been unsuccessful.


Barr Orders Clearing of Park


In a huff and knowing the President was close to making his photo op trek from the White House to the church, Barr ordered the Park Police and the military police to clear the protesters out of Lafayette Square. 


The police used tear gas canisters, pepper balls, pepper spray, horses, batons, and metal shields to remove the protesters from the square. The Rector of the St. John church, Virginia Gerbasi, was gassed and overrun by the rampaging police. She was forced away from the church by “flash-bang explosions,” rubber bullets, and metal shields.


Unlawful Riot Control on Peaceful Protesters 


The unlawful “riot control” assault on the peaceful protesters was a “law enforcement” operation. 


The Attorney General of the United States does not have either law enforcement duties or powers. The Judiciary Act of 1789 bestowed upon the U.S. Attorney General a sole authority: prosecute federal crimes in the “Judicial Courts” of the United States. It was a prosecutorial, not law enforcement, power given to the Attorney General. The establishment of the U.S. Justice Department in 1870 did not give the Attorney General any law enforcement powers.


Duties of AG Do Not Include Law Enforcement


The Justice Department’s Organization, Mission & Functions Manual spell out the “principal duties” of the U.S. Attorney General:


  • Represent the United States in legal matters.
  • Supervise and direct the administration and operation of the offices, boards, divisions, and bureaus that comprise the Department.
  • Furnish advice and opinions, formal and informal, on legal matters to the President and the Cabinet and the heads of the executive departments and agencies of the government, as provided by law. 
  • Make recommendations to the President concerning appointments to federal judicial positions and to positions within the Department, including U.S. Attorneys and U.S. Marshals.
  • Represent or supervise the representation of the United States Government in the Supreme Court of the United States and all other courts, foreign and domestic, in which the United States is a party or has an interest as may be deemed appropriate.
  • Perform or supervise the performance of other duties required by statute or Executive Order.


There are no law enforcement powers in these principal duties.


President Trump has denied that he either ordered or instructed that the protesters be forcibly removed from Lafayette Square. 


That leaves Attorney General Barr as the person solely responsible for the combined law enforcement/military assault on the peaceful protesters.


The order was both unlawful and unconstitutional. It was, in fact, a criminal order given by the Attorney General of the United States. 


Texas AG Also Acting Outside Scope of Authority


We recently posted a piece about Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton assuming judicial powers that were not within the purview as attorney general of the state of Texas as part of a “political stunt.”


What Attorney General Barr did with his unauthorized law enforcement and military decision to assault peaceful protesters is criminal. 


This attorney general has not only undermined the core principles of the Justice Department but has corrupted the Department to an unprecedented extent. The AG has been caught up in the constant pursuit of serving President Trump’s corrupt political demands. He is complicit in seeing that Trump’s “enemies” are investigated and threatened with prosecution while his corrupt allies are given special treatment.


The Attorney General has now abused his authority to a shameful, intolerable degree by ordering a military assault on peaceful U.S. citizens just so the President could have a campaign photo op with a Bible in front of the St. John church.


The Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives should immediately open an inquiry into whether the Attorney General’s criminal assault on the Lafayette Square protesters constitutes an Article II impeachable offense.


Attorney General Barr cannot be this nation’s principal criminal prosecutor and a quasi-third world military thug at the same time.