President Trump has already shown his Orwellian tendencies by giving a speech on Monday in the Rose Garden in which he declared his “respect” for peaceful protesters at the very moment that forces ultimately responding to an order by Trump violently attacked peaceful protesters in front of the White House to remove them from Lafayette Square, as well as priests and parishioners from the patio of their St. John’s Church across from the White House. This attack and removal of the protesters as well as church people allowed Trump to walk across the square fot photo op at the church, holding up a Bible backwards and upside down. While it has been admitted that ultimately this attack reflected Trump wanting to have this photo op, it remains unclear precisely which federal forces were part of the attack and exactly who was immediately commanding them. It seems at a minimum that this involved federal Park Police, but may have included DC National Guard, and maybe Secret service personnel, as well as maybe others, although no DC police or officials, with Mayor Bowswe opposing this action.
Most seem to think that AG Barr gave the immediate order, but he does not seem to official authority over several of these groups, notably the Secret Service. SecDef Esper and Chief of Staff Gen. Milley were present during Trump’s walk across the square, but are now apparently claiming not to have any responsibility for this. Esper and Milley have since come under strong criticism by many people either in the GOP such as the Lincoln Project group as well as current and former high DOD officials, including James Miller who publicly resigned from the DOD Science Board in protest as well as a strong memo by former SecDef “Mad Dog” Mattis.
However, possibly the most disturbing development out of this has been the appearance of unidentified figures, some in uniforms of some sort, some not, who seem to be acting to control protesters and keep them out of various public areas. These may have participated in the attack on Monday, but they would have been just part of groups that were identifiable, even if they were acting illegally and with unclear authority. However, these people are much more mysterious, although when asked who they are, a few have said they are from the “Department of Justice,” which is of course overseen by AG Barr. Is he overseeing a new Praetorian Guard that is beyond the Secret Service to do Trump’s will?
There are two clear actions these mysterious figures have been involved in. One was to line up on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to keep the public out. Why were they doing this? Nobody seems to know. But they were in camouflage and armed. At least they do not seem to be militsry from the DOD.
The other place they have been seriously and obviously present, although they have been reported to be wandering around time harassing protesters, is around the White House itself, where they seem to have superseded the Secret Service more clearly. They have been the agents expanding the perimeter around the WH within which even peaceful protesters are not allowed. It is pretty clear they do not have the legal right to do this, but nobody is stopping them. Here they are showing their potential Praetorian Guard role, personal protectors and agents of the president, operating anonymously without authority, but willing to do is direct bidding. I am wondering if they will be disbanded when things quiet down, or will they still be around in November when the election comes.
There are various speculatons about who these are. One theory is that they are federal prison guards. Another is that they are from ICE, a specially trained force. There is also a report today that Barr has just granted the DEA extraordinary authority to surveil protesters, although maybe these anonymous figures in the streets are not DEA. A final even weirder theory is that they are a private group ultimately under EdSec De Vos or her brother, Eric Prince. The idea that we might have private security group assuming law enforcement authority in Washington against the wishes of the mayor and hiding it’s identity is most disturbing.
This morning’s Washington Post reports that apparently the unidentified forces include US Marshalls and some FBI personnel, all of these part of the Dept.of Justice. Apparently AG Barr has been commanding this Praetorian Guard from FBI HQ. Meanwhile, Pres. Trump has been adding more layers of fences around the White House.
More Addenda: The new fences around the WH now enclose St. John’s Church. When the Episcopal bishop of DC showed up with some folks to hold a vigil on the church grounds, the Praetorian Guard refused to let them in to do so. They ended up sitting on the ground nearby to hold their vigil.
More recently, AG Barr held a presser in which we learned that ATF agents are also involved in all this, although mostly “to enforce gun rights.” It came out that a lot of these PGs with no IDs on them are indeed prison guards, with their chief saying “we mostly work inside prisons so do not need IDs.,” to which Barr added something like “So they do not like to answer people asking who they are.” Right. Also, apparently, the only “group” behind all the violence, is “antifa,” something FBI Director Wray confirmed, even though a day or two ago the FBI itself said it found no evidence of this nonexistent group doing anything.