KEY POINTS

  • Leader of church visited by Trump said his words were "incendiary"
  • Church visit reportedly made an unnamed White House official "sick," "ashamed"
  • Before visit, Trump said he may use military to end demonstrations

President Donald Trump's Monday evening visit to a Washington church drew widespread criticism and condemnation Tuesday, seen as a inflaming racial tension instead of an effort to diffuse the situation.

Police used smoke bombs, tear gas grenades and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters gathered outside of the White House to clear the president's path for Trump to cross the street to visit the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church. No warning was given, triggering widespread panic among demonstrators. 

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, who presides over the church, said she was “outraged” by Trump’s actions.

Budde told CNN that not only did Trump fail to make her aware of his plans to visit her church, but the president also “did not pray” or “acknowledge the agony of our country right now.”

Budde condemned Trump’s words as “incendiary” and “antithetical to the teachings of Jesus.” Trump had tweeted earlier, calling the protesters "thugs" and about shooting the looters.

In remarks prepared for delivery Tuesday in Philadelphia, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden condemned the tactics used by police and accused Trump of being "more interested in serving the passions of his base than the needs of the people in his care."

"Look, the presidency is a big job. Nobody will get everything right. And I won’t either," Biden continued. "But I promise you this. I won’t traffic in fear and division. I won’t fan the flames of hate."

Appearing on MSNBC, Axios reported insider sources said not all of Trump’s staff supported the president’s visit to the church. Axios quoted an unnamed official as saying that they had “never been more ashamed, I was sick to my stomach” and was uncomfortable with the positive attitudes other aides had. “They’re so proud of themselves,” the aide told Axios.

In cities across the country, protesters have been demonstrating against the death of George Floyd, who died as Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck. Since last week, demonstrations have escalated, with clashes with police escalating along with vandalism and looting.

Ahead of his visit to St. John’s Espiscopal Church, Trump spoke in the White House Rose Garden, reiterating his call for state and local leadership to put a swift end to the demonstrations. If they do not, the president said, “I will deploy the U.S. military and quickly solve the problem for them.”

US President Donald Trump holds up a bible in front of St John's Episcopal church after walking across Lafayette Park from the White House in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020 President Donald Trump holds up a bible in front of St John's Episcopal church after walking across Lafayette Park from the White House in Washington, D.C. on June 1, 2020. Photo: AFP / Brendan Smialowski