The playboy president brought a clever and cultured conservative lawyer into his tent. Is William Barr now ready to bend any rule to help Trump keep the White House?by Sam Tanenhaus / July 17, 2020 / Leave a comment
If the lawlessness of the Trump years can be reduced to a single moment, it might well have occurred on 1st June. Six days after the police killing of George Floyd, the president decided to stage a photo opportunity by holding up a Bible in front of St John’s Episcopal Church, across from the White House. At the time, protesters against police brutality were still on the square near the church. Trump’s photo-op required their removal. “What ensued was a burst of violence unlike any seen in the shadow of the White House in generations,” the New York Times reported:
As he prepared for his surprise march to the church, Mr Trump first went before cameras in the Rose Garden to declare himself “your president of law and order” but also “an ally of all peaceful protesters,” even as peaceful protesters just a block away and clergy members on the church patio were routed by smoke and flash grenades and some form of chemical spray deployed by shield-bearing riot officers and mounted police.
The combined state force also included secret service agents, park police, guards brought in from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, helicopter flyovers and other tactical personnel.
Trump didn’t make his “surprise march” alone. At his side were Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, who was dressed in full combat fatigues. The image it projected was not of confident strength or the assertion of “law and order” but of a petty despot’s rogue aggression against American citizens. General James Mattis, Trump’s former defense secretary who had steadfastly maintained his silence since resigning in December 2018, finally spoke up. “I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled,” Mattis declared. “When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens.” Even the still-serving Milley made a remorseful apology.
When the tear gas cleared, and the country absorbed the magnitude of what had happened—a violent attack on peace-abiding Americans by their government—the…