In New Letter, Chair Grijalva Pushes Bernhardt for Written Explanations of Administration’s Shifting Narrative Around Violent Lafayette Square Crackdown

Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today sent Interior Secretary David Bernhardt a letter asking for documents and interviews to explain the administration’s violent June 1 law enforcement crackdown at Lafayette Square against peaceful civil rights protesters. The letter, available at https://bit.ly/2SWtxg4, highlights inconsistent and evasive testimony from Acting U.S. Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan at the Committee’s July 28 hearing and the administration’s consistent failure to provide documents in response to Committee requests.

The administration has never offered a coherent explanation for the crackdown. One claim, that it was a response to protester violence, has been thoroughly contradicted by video evidence and testimony from multiple sources, including National Guard Maj. Adam DeMarco, a whistleblower who was the liaison to the Park Police on June 1 and who testified at the July 28 hearing.

Today’s letter focuses on several unresolved issues around the administration’s use of force against unarmed, non-violent civilians, including:

  • When law enforcement first moved fencing to the area around Lafayette Square and whether the erection of the fences was truly related to the timing of the crackdown, as the administration has claimed;
  • The Park Police’s failure to record its radio transmissions during the operation, despite recording transmissions for other operations;
  • Whether law enforcement gave the crowd fully audible warnings to disperse, as required by a prior court settlement;
  • The administration’s claim that the crackdown was a response to protesters injuring law enforcement officers, which Monahan himself contradicted under questioning;
  • The Park Police’s well-attested use of tear gas, which it has denied or minimized;
  • The actual reason or reasons for the crackdown, which preceded President Trump’s now infamous photo op holding a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Grijalva asks for a total of 19 sets of documents, communications or written responses. He also requests that Monahan and Mark Adamchik, the Park Police incident commander during the June 1 crackdown, be made available for interviews with Committee staff.

All Committee document requests to the administration, dating to before the pandemic and related office closures, have unambiguously asked for digital file transmissions. The administration has responded by printing documents instead of sending them electronically, theatrically delivering them to Capitol Hill in boxes of thousands of pages, insisting they have complied with the Committee’s requests and taking offense at any follow-up correspondence seeking the originally requested digital versions.

The Committee continues to view the administration’s tactics as an unacceptable refusal to cooperate with legitimate congressional oversight of the executive branch.

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