House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Tuesday said President Trump is “stoking tensions,” amid the violent protests that have broken out across the nation in recent days, and called the president’s visit to St. John’s Episcopal Church Monday evening “an action worthy of censure.”
Hoyer, D-Md., speaking to reporters Tuesday condemned Trump, calling him “in some ways, a dictator of division.”
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“I am horrified he attempted to put down peaceful protests with military force,” Hoyer said, calling it “the act of an authoritarian, unempathetic leader.”
His comments come as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., wants the Senate to adopt a resolution Tuesday condemning Trump for last night’s actions. It says “Congress condemns the President of the United States for ordering Federal officers to use gas and rubber bullets against the Americans who were peaceably protesting in Lafayette Square.”
However, a U.S. Park Police source told WTOP protesters were pushed back because some were attacking police officers — not to clear the way for Trump. The outlet also cited sources saying tear gas was not used, but rather smoke canisters were deployed.
Trump visited St. John’s Episcopal Church, which had been attacked by vandals on Sunday, moments after he addressed the nation and promised to restore “law and order” amid the protests and riots that have engulfed the country in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.
As he did so, protesters were being pushed back by riot police near Lafayette Square. Media outlets connected the pushback with Trump’s visit, expressing outrage over the smoke used — and described the protesters as “peaceful.”
Hoyer, on Tuesday, said it was “certainly an action worthy of censure.” Censure is not a formal mode of discipline for a president, but a move Congress votes on in expressing severe disapproval of something.
The president has been slammed by Democrats and local leaders in the hours following his visit to St. John’s, but Park Police have defended the tactics.
“A source says tear gas was never used — instead, smoke cannisters were deployed, which don’t have an uncomfortable irritant in them,” reporter Neal Augenstein tweeted. “And, the source says Park Police didn’t know President Trump would be walking across the park several minutes later.”
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The outlet went on to report that the crowd was pushed back when officers were being hit with water bottles and that protesters had climbed onto the top of a structure at the north end of Lafayette Square that had been attacked and burned a day earlier.”
The Park Police did not immediately respond to request for comment from Fox News.
The White House cited the WTOP report to dispute earlier reports that the square was cleared for the president.
Nevertheless, Hoyer said Tuesday that he expects “the appropriate committees to look at this,” including the House Judiciary, Homeland Security and Government Oversight committees to review.
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“I would hope the committees would look at what directions he gave,” Hoyer said.
Trump, meanwhile, declared that D.C. had “no problems” on Monday, in contrast to other cities like New York City.
“D.C. had no problems last night. Many arrests. Great job done by all,” he wrote, touting “Overwhelming force” and “Domination.”
Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.