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Trump And His Allies Claimed Tear Gas Wasn't Used On Protesters Outside The White House. The Secret Service Just Admitted It Was.

"The employee utilized oleoresin capsicum spray, or pepper spray, in response to an assaultive individual."

Last updated on June 13, 2020, at 5:26 p.m. ET

Posted on June 13, 2020, at 4:46 p.m. ET

Alex Brandon / AP

Police clear demonstrators from Lafayette Park, June 1.

The president called it fake news, the attorney general said it was false, the US Secret Service said it wasn't true, and the Trump campaign tried to get news outlets to retract reports that tear gas was fired at peaceful protesters in front of the White House on June 1.

But nearly two weeks after claiming the chemical irritant was not used to clear the way for President Donald Trump's photo op outside St. John's Episcopal Church, the Secret Service on Saturday admitted that tear gas was, in fact, used on the protesters.

The admission is the latest turn in a stunning series of events. Trump, wanting to appear tough on people demonstrating against police brutality and systemic racism around the nation and in his backyard, threatened in an ominous Rose Garden speech to send in the US military to quell the protests.

"If a city or state refuses, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them," Trump said as booms rang in the background and gas filled the air just outside the White House.

Minutes later, the president walked from the White House to the church, where he stood for a few minutes to pose with a Bible in hand.

BuzzFeed News reporter Kadia Goba, reporting for the White House pool at the time, reported she and others who walked with the president to the church were still "coughing and choking" on the way because of the remnants of gas.

One day later, Trump tweeted a story saying the "media falsely claimed" tear gas was used. He added, "fake news," a label he mostly uses to describe credible reporting he doesn't like.

Media Falsely Claimed Violent Riots Were Peaceful And That Tear Gas Was Used Against Rioters https://t.co/3crnij4pWT Fake News is hurting our Country so badly. Don’t burn down churches. This article is a must read!

That same day, the Trump campaign reached out to multiple news agencies asking for a correction or retraction of news stories that noted tear gas was used, including BuzzFeed News.

"Every news organization which reported the tear gas lie should immediately correct or retract its erroneous reporting," Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the campaign, said in a statement. "It's said that a lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on. This tear gas lie is proof of that."

Four days later, the Secret Service claimed tear gas was not used by any of the agencies involved.

Six days later, a report aired quoting Attorney General Bill Barr, who according to White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany gave the order to disperse the crowd that day, pushing back against the claim.

"By the way, there was no tear gas used," Barr told CBS's Face the Nation.

Barr went on to argue that "pepper spray is not a chemical irritant," even though some companies that sell it to law enforcement agencies describe it as such. "It's not chemical. Pepper balls," he said. The CDC lists pepper spray as a riot-control agent that is commonly referred to as "tear gas."

"Pepper spray is not a chemical irritant. It's not chemical" -- AG Barr uses painstaking distinctions to defend the use of force against protesters near the White House last Monday

On Saturday, the Secret Service walked it all back.

"After further review, the U.S. Secret Service has determined that an agency employee used pepper spray on June 1st, during efforts to secure the area near Lafayette Park," the agency said in a statement. "The employee utilized oleoresin capsicum spray, or pepper spray, in response to an assaultive individual."

BuzzFeed News reached out to the Trump campaign for comment.

The actions by authorities at the park have prompted lawsuits from Black Lives Matter and the ACLU.

"Once again, yet another federal agency is pulling back yet another lie meant to cover up the administration's unlawful firing of tear gas and other weapons outside the White House," the ACLU said in a statement Saturday. "Video footage, evidence from the scene, and our clients' injuries make clear that tear gas and other weapons were used unprovoked on demonstrators protesting police brutality outside the White House. The [ACLU of DC] will see the president, his attorney general, and his defense secretary in court."




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