Trump staged photo op at church ‘out of anger at claims he was sheltering in White House bunker’

Andrew Naughtie
Donald Trump signals to a reporter to be quiet as he stands outside St John Episcopal Church following a walk from the nearby White House. Lafayette Park was cleared of protesters by police using tear gas so he could go there. He is flanked by Attorney General William Barr (far left), Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany: AFP via Getty Images

Donald Trump’s brief appearance at a shuttered church outside the White House on Monday was motivated by his fury at news coverage saying he was rushed to the White House bunker for his safety on Friday, reports say.

According to CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Mr Trump made the highly unusual trip outside the White House gates – for which crowds were cleared by police – partly because he was “upset” by the coverage. Reacting to her report, a visibly dismayed Anderson Cooper replied, “Oh my god. We’re in trouble.”

His photo op at St John’s Episcopal Church, which is only a minute’s walk from the White House, was facilitated by riot police clearing Lafayette Square with tear gas and rubber bullets, holding protesters back less than 100 yards away so that the president could walk over to the church, where he silently held up a bible while explosions and shouting were heard from out of shot.

The White House bunker, whose full name is the Presidential Emergency Operations Centre, is a secure shelter underneath the house’s East Wing. It allows officials and presidents sheltering there to continue their work in safety during emergencies, and was famously used for the purpose on 9/11.

Mr Trump and his wife were reportedly rushed to the bunker on Friday night as protesters reached the gates of the White House, where they clashed with police.

Going beyond simply condemning the riots, Mr Trump the same day called for “heavily armed” military deployments on American streets – even over the objections of governors and mayors. However, it is unclear whether he has the legal authority to give such orders unilaterally.

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