Washington Post columnist blames peaceful protesters for Trump tear-gassing them

Marc Thiessen: “If they had to use tear gas, what does that say about the protesters?”

Video file

Citation From the June 2, 2020, edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom

ED HENRY (CO-ANCHOR): Try to help us make sense of the president is really saying here, about the possibility of using the military. Our own Jennifer Griffin breaking some news a few moments ago, that Gen. Milley is not officially in charge of the military response to protests — which seems to contradict a bit of what the president told governors yesterday on a conference call. Getting beyond the back-and-forth, what does this really mean?

MARC THIESSEN (WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Well, I think people are losing all perspective. I mean, he's talking about invoking the Insurrection Act, which is a law that allows the president of the United States to federalize the National Guard, and use the — get around the Posse Comitatus Act, which is a law that prohibits using the military domestically — and allows them to use the Army to quell insurrections and protests.

This is a law that's been used by Presidents Thomas Jefferson, Rutherford Hayes, Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson. In 1992, George H.W. Bush used it during the Los Angeles riots over the Rodney King beating. President John F. Kennedy used the law twice — in 1962, at the University of Mississippi, when James Meredith was becoming the first African-American to attend there, segregationists rioted, and so he invoked the Insurrection Act. He used it, Kennedy used it to crack down on segregationists who were blocking the integration of Alabama schools. So, this is a law that's been used by many presidents, in many situations. And look at the pictures right there on your screen — we're having an insurrection. So, there's no reason why the president shouldn't use this law.

HENRY: Marc, you know, interesting, you hear a lot of criticism of the president and the attorney general, for the fact that — people are saying in the media and various places, that quote-unquote, “peaceful protesters” were cleared out with tear gas and munitions in Lafayette Park, so the president could go to St. John's Church. Left out in some of that, is the fact that these quote-unquote, “peaceful protesters” set that church on fire the night before, didn't they?

THIESSEN: Well, it might be different protesters. But look, yes, that's exactly right. So, there's all this outrage that President Trump is committing sacrilege by standing in front of the church with a Bible. Maybe the bigger sacrilege is burning the church. You know, did that ever occur to anybody?

And, you know, as for, like, clearing out the protesters — I'm sorry, he's the president of the United States. If he wants to walk across Lafayette Park to St. John's Church, he can do so. That's the Secret Service's job. I live in Washington, D.C., and during the Obama administration, the Clinton administration, and all the Bush administrations, when the president wants to go somewhere in a motorcade, what do they do? They clear the streets. I've been in motorcade traffic jams a thousand times. And if they had to use tear gas, what does that say about the protesters?

HENRY: Right.

THIESSEN: It means they refused an order, a lawful order by the Secret Service to clear the path for the president of the United States. And this is just absurd.

HENRY: Marc, pardon me, on that point, though, Joe Biden clearly has a different view. And what you're saying, yeah, sure, motorcades, you know, when they come through you've got to be cleared out. But the idea of tear gas being used, Joe Biden jumped on that. Let's quickly hear from Biden, and then give you a chance to respond.


JOE BIDEN (PRESUMPTIVE DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE): When peaceful protesters, dispersed in order for a president — a president, from the doorstep of the people's house, the White House — using tear gas and flash grenades, in order to stage a photo-op — a photo-op — at one of the most historic churches in the country, or at least in Washington, D.C — we can be forgiven for believing the president is more interested in power than in principle.


HENRY: Your response?

THIESSEN: If they were peaceful protesters, there would be no need to use tear gas. It means they resisted. The Secret Service has the absolute legal right to clear Lafayette Park, in order for the president to go over to St. John's Church. And if they had to use tear gas — and I understand from what Kristin Fisher just reported, they asked three times for them to clear peacefully, and they refused. So, this is not a — those are not peaceful protesters.

And the president — it's not a photo-op. The president of the United States is sending a signal that we're we're not going to let — we're not going to let people burn down churches. We're not going to let people burn down businesses.

You know, we have 40 million people in this country who lost their jobs, because of the pandemic. And then all of a sudden, they just got back to work, right, and now all of a sudden they can't work because their businesses are being burned to the ground. This is — it's un- — the president has a responsibility to restore law and order in the country, and he's trying to do it.

HENRY: Marc, I have a friend, he owns Amata restaurant in New York City, he's lost hundreds of thousands of dollars of business because of the lockdowns. He was just coming back. He came into work this morning, the windows are smashed, the restaurant was ransacked.

THIESSEN: That's horrible.

HENRY: So that's what happened to one small business owner in New York.

THIESSEN: And it's not just the owners — it's the workers, the workers who have to go in there, who have been out of work and now are just coming back to work, and now they're shut down because of riots.

HENRY: And he employs a lot of people. Marc Thiessen, thank you.