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Trump DENIES ordering dispersal of protesters before church photo op, claims no tear gas was used

Trump DENIES ordering dispersal of protesters before church photo op, claims no tear gas was used
US President Donald Trump has denied ordering protesters to be removed from Lafayette Square in Washington, claiming he “didn’t know who was there.” He also said police didn’t use tear gas during the violent altercation.

Speaking to Fox News Radio on Wednesday, Trump dismissed allegations that he had personally ordered the dispersal of protesters along his route to St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, where he held a photo op on Monday. The president posed with a Bible and his top aides in front of the building, which had been vandalized the previous night.

"They didn’t use tear gas," Trump claimed, contradicting multiple media reports, eyewitness accounts and footage from the scene, which appears to show a massive police contingent evicting protesters and journalists alike from the president’s route just moments before his "surprise" walk to the church.

Also on rt.com Trump WALKS to vandalized St. John’s Church as riot police face off with protesters in US capital (PHOTOS & VIDEO)

"Now, when I went, I didn't say 'Oh, move them out.' I didn't know who was there," he added, insisting that he merely wanted to visit the church after it "went through trauma."

Other officials have been in denial over the church stunt as well. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who accompanied the president, claims he did not even know they were heading for a photo op.

"I thought I was going to do two things: to see some damage and to talk to the troops," Esper told NBC late on Tuesday, also claiming that he thought top officials were heading to inspect a vandalized toilet in Lafayette Square near the church.

The church stunt drew anger from all sides, with critics accusing Trump of using the Bible as a political prop, and assaulting peaceful protesters so he could pose for photos. The photo op also drew criticism from religious leaders, with the former minister of the church, Jake Tapper, branding it "a sacrilege for all people of all faiths." Trump himself, however, told Fox that religious figures actually "loved" his visit.

Also on rt.com Democrats scramble to APOLOGIZE after comparing Bible-holding Trump to Hitler (but only for sharing doctored pic)

The stunt even prompted disturbing comparisons online between Trump and Adolf Hitler, with people posting photos of the two holding a Bible in a similar fashion – only to find the picture of the Nazi leader was fake.

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