Grassley Defends Trump church visit, says it can be “OK” to remove protesters in some cases.
EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version alluded that Grassley was speaking specifically about removing protesters ahead of the President’s trip to a nearby church. In fact, Grassley acknowledged the need for police to use force against protesters in some cases but said he did not know enough about the specific removal of protesters outside the White House on Monday.
(CNN) - Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the longest-serving Republican in the upper chamber of Congress, defended President Trump’s visit to a nearby church noting that it can be “OK” to clear out peaceful protesters in certain cases.
Grassley said to CNN that he supported the right to demonstrate but gave deference to security concerns surrounding unknown elements within protest crowds outside the White House ahead of the President’s visit.
“It’s all assumed to be peaceful until someone that’s got a terrorist activity or a rioting activity, you don’t know that until it happens," Grassley told CNN. "So I don’t know if they could have known that.”
Trump walked from the White House to St. John’s Church, which experienced a small fire in the basement the night before during violence in the nation’s capital. Protesters, acting peacefully, that had gathered along the route to demonstrate after the death of George Floyd, were dispersed with tear gas, flash grenades, and rubber bullets just before the visit.
Grassley said that the peaceful nature of the demonstrators at the time might not have stayed that way as Trump exited White House grounds. Grassley generally said he could see reasons police may opt to use force against seemingly peaceful protests.
“Police might expect violence from some of the people -- maybe 5% of the people -- and that could be a potential problem, the answer would be, it’s OK," Grassley said
The church was boarded up as Trump posed in front of it with a copy of the Bible. He was joined by aides and other staffers, as well as security, before leaving after just a few minutes.
Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, who oversees the church, told CNN that there was no advanced notice of the visit, and that she was “outraged” by the scene.
Grassley, on the other hand, said it was appropriate for the president to make the trip given what had happened to the church the night before.
“We expect leadership from our President and particularly in times like this,” Grassley said to CNN. “And I think that when there was destruction to a church or any other historical thing that America would put great confidence in that should not be destroyed, I think a president ought to bring attention to that terrorist activity, and go there and do ... what he did last night.”
Budde told CNN on Tuesday that Trump is not a regular visitor to the church or any other in her diocese.
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