More (Lunatic) Details of the Bible Stunt Emerge

Someday, Trump may wonder if the photo was worth it.

The Bible stunt may be turning into a watershed moment in the Trump Administration, the beginning of a slide into utter ignominy. And we’re getting a clearer picture now of what really happened on Monday when Trump decided to use a church and a Bible for a photo op.

According to How Trump’s Idea for a Photo Op Led to Havoc in a Park in the New York Times, The whole mess began on Sunday night. That’s when protests near the White House caused the Secret Service to escort Trump into the White House bunker, while exterior lights were turned off as if it were Halloween and the residents were out of candy.

But then, news stories began to portray Trump as afraid and hiding from the turmoil. Trump decided he was gonna show ’em.

On Monday, an enraged Trump wanted to send federal troops into U.S. cities, an idea opposed by advisers. This was followed by the famously unhinged conference call in which Trump yelled at state governors for being weak, and in which Secretary of Defense Mark Esper tells governors to “dominate the battle space.”

But then Trump, or more likely Ivanka, came up with another plan — Trump could show his strength by marching across Lafayette Park to St. John’s Episcopal Church, which had been damaged by fire the night before. Hope Hicks, Jared Kushner, and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also contributed to the plan.

What could go wrong?

The plan was to have Trump give a statement in the Rose Garden a bit after 6 pm and then walk to St. John’s with the press corps looking on. But the presence of protesters in the park was a problem. Attorney General Bill Barr was given the job of clearing the park of protesters, because we can’t have Mr. Tough Guy seen in the vacinity of peaceful protesters, can we? From the New York Times:

Reinforcements were summoned. Just before noon, an alert went out to every Washington-area agent with Homeland Security Investigations, a division of ICE, telling them to prepare to assist with any demonstration, according to an email labeled with a “high” severity. The F.B.I. deployed its elite hostage rescue team, highly armed and trained agents more accustomed to arresting dangerous suspects than dealing with riots. And ICE deployed its “special response teams” to protect agency facilities and be on call for more.

But others were reluctant to help. Mr. Trump was so aggressive on the call with governors that when Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia received a request to send up to 5,000 of his state’s National Guard troops, he grew concerned. His staff contacted Ms. [Washington, DC Mayor Muriel] Bowser’s office and discovered that the mayor had not even been notified of the request. At that point, Mr. Northam turned the White House down. Similarly, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York called off buses of National Guard troops that were to head to Washington.

Throughout the afternoon, demonstrators continued to gather in Lafayette Park.

By midafternoon on Monday, protesters had gathered again on H Street at the north side of Lafayette Square, this time peacefully. The Rev. Gini Gerbasi, the rector of St. John’s Church in Georgetown and a former assistant rector at St. John’s, arrived around 4 p.m. with cases of water for the demonstrators. Joining her on the church patio were about 20 clergy members who passed out snacks.

Next to them on the patio, a group affiliated with Black Lives Matter mixed water and soap in squeeze bottles as emergency eye wash if protesters were tear-gassed by the police.

By about 5 o’clock trucks loaded with National Guard troops were arriving in the area. (I haven’t seen from which state(s) these troops were deployed.) The Secret Service had snipers on the roof of the West Wing. The White House Press Corps was summoned to the Rose Garden to hear a statement scheduled for 6:15. As the reporters assembled, troops arrived in Lafayette Park and put on gas masks.

At 6:17 p.m., a large phalanx of officers wearing Secret Service uniforms began advancing on protesters, climbing or jumping over barriers at the edge of the square at H Street and Madison Place. Officials said later that the police warned protesters to disperse three times, but if they did, reporters on the scene as well as many demonstrators did not hear it.

Some form of chemical agent was fired at protesters, flash bang grenades went off and mounted police moved toward the crowds. “People were dropping to the ground” at the sound of bangs and pops that sounded like gunfire, Ms. Gerbasi said. “We started seeing and smelling tear gas, and people were running at us.”

By 6:30 p.m., she said, “Suddenly the police were on the patio of St. John’s Church in a line, literally pushing and shoving people off of the patio.”

No one associated with St. John’s or the Episcopal Diocese of Washington had been notified about the White House plans. The people at the church said they were given no instructions or warnings; the troops or police or whoever they were just showed up and started shoving.

White House correspondents were still waiting in the Rose Garden. The statement scheduled for 6:15 was postponed to 6:30, and finally happened at 6:43. One assumes Trump was waiting for word that all those nasty protesters, Episcopal clergy, and seminarians had been cleared out of the way.

Trump spoke for seven minutes. It was a strange statement, obviously written for him since it was in recognizably proficient English. Here is just a bit

That is why I am taking immediate presidential action to stop the violence and restore security and safety in America.  I am mobilizing all available federal resources — civilian and military — to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson, and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights.  Therefore, the following measures are going into effect immediately:

First, we are ending the riots and lawlessness that has spread throughout our country.  We will end it now.  Today, I have strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets.  Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled.

If a city or a state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.

He finished the talk with “And now I’m going to pay my respects to a very, very special place.  Thank you very much.” And then the walk to St. John’s began.

I understand the White House released a video of the march accompanied by “triumphal music,” but I haven’t been able to find it.

Trump was accompanied by Barr, Esper, Meadows, Kushner, and Ivanka, the Times says. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and national security adviser Robert O’Brien appear in some of the photos of the Bible Stunt, so they must have gotten there somehow. And the fellow in military fatigues is chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley.

Now we get to the Bible Stunt itself, which is brilliantly described by Robin Givhans, fashion critic for the Washington Post.

None of them was wearing a mask, because that would remind everyone that the world is still facing a pandemic, and besides, the masks would ruin the picture. Everyone stood apart, but not six feet apart. They didn’t lower their head in prayer or silent tribute to George Floyd — the man whose death after nearly nine minutes under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer sparked this uprising. Their arms dangled at their side. No one seemed to know where to look or what to do or how long to stand there. …

… The photographs in front of St. John’s captured the president’s fundamental discomfort with what it means to exist out in the open where people do not soothe him with flattery, where brute force is an accelerant, not an answer, and where imperfect lives spill outside their borders. Trump worked so hard for his flaccid, sanitized photograph: a man standing with nothing but white bureaucrats — most of them men — on the plaza in front of a neatly boarded-up house of worship. Trump isn’t even really at the church; he’s in its vicinity.

At one point, standing alone, he’s holding the Bible not like it’s a source of enduring comfort but like it’s a soiled diaper.

Do read the whole piece; it’s wonderful. Now, back to the New York Times:

The president’s movement surprised nearly everyone, as he intended, including law enforcement. The Washington police chief said he was notified only moments beforehand. Park Police commanders on the scene were as surprised as everyone else to see the president in the park.

I’ve remarked before that the White House has a pattern of enacting things without consulting with the entities expected to carry out those things. This is mostly incompetent staff work, I think, but on this occasion it may be that Trump just wanted to surprise everyone.

Anyway, without saying anything, Trump got his photo taken holding the upside down Bible, and then he returned to the White House.

The police and other forces pursued demonstrators around the capital the rest of the evening, with military helicopters even swooping low overhead in what were called shows of force. Mr. Barr and General Milley at different points roamed the streets. … By Tuesday afternoon, the crowds were back and even bigger.

As I wrote yesterday, the stunt mightily pissed off the Washington Episcopalians. By now, we’ve heard from a lot more Christians who were heartifly offended by the stunt. Only Trump’s base of white conservative evangelicals appear to approve of it. Even some white evangelicals were distressed, though.

Later that evening, helicopters flew low over the demonstrations, low enough to knock individuals off their feet. There are reports this was ordered by Trump himself.

Josh Marshall, just now:

The last 48 hours have seen multiple press reports of people who appear to be federal law enforcement patrolling in the vicinity of the White House, refusing to identify who they are or what agency they represent. According to a report this afternoon from Garrett Haake of NBC News federal law enforcement officers of some kind pushed the crowd perimeter back from the White House but refused to identify themselves, what agency they represented and had removed all insignia or name plates that might identify them.

More fallout:

Pentagon officials insist that neither General Milley or Defense Secretary Esper knew about the photo op plan or the tear gassing of demonstrators in advance; they were just going along with whatever Trump was doing. Even so, a Pentagon policy adviser resigned in disgust over Esper’s participation in the stunt.

Esper is in hot water with Trump, too. This morning he said he does not support using the Insurrection Act to deploy federal troops to cities for riot control. Esper is now said to be in “precarious standing” with the White House.

Last night the Trump campaign demanded that news media “correct” the accounts of tear gas being used in Lafayette Park. It wasn’t tear gas, the campaign says. Yeah, it was.

General Mike Mullen, who was chair of the Joint Chiefs during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, wrote that he is disgusted with the Bible Stunt.

It sickened me yesterday to see security personnel—including members of the National Guard—forcibly and violently clear a path through Lafayette Square to accommodate the president’s visit outside St. John’s Church. I have to date been reticent to speak out on issues surrounding President Trump’s leadership, but we are at an inflection point, and the events of the past few weeks have made it impossible to remain silent.

Whatever Trump’s goal in conducting his visit, he laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife, and risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces.

I think if Trump pushes his Insurrection Act plan any further, he risks getting a big refusal from the top brass of the military. The brass doesn’t like Trump, and I don’t think they will allow themselves to be pushed into bringing dishonor on their branches of service.  We’ll see.

Greg Sargent writes that Congress isn’t being briefed on any of Trump’s “plans” for the use of force against demonstrations. This is not how Washington normally functions.

Trump now says he was “inspecting” the White House bunker, not hiding in it.

Today I’m hearing from several sources that Derek Chauvin is now being charged with 2nd degree murder in the death of George Floyd, and other officers at the scene are being charged with aiding and abetting.

See also ‘This can’t be happening’: An oral history of 48 surreal, violent, biblical minutes in Washington in the Washington post. Bottom line, Trump utterly screwed himself with the Bible Stunt.

Update: Mattis to Military: Don’t Obey Trump’s Illegal Orders

9 thoughts on “More (Lunatic) Details of the Bible Stunt Emerge

  1. Trump should have had Melania pose next to him so we could have had a new American Gothic.

  2. Just a random tidbit: the offended "IT WASN'T TEAR GAS!" is a typical Republican lie of omission. (Ref: state of the union, "The UK believes something(unsaid: that we know is BS".)

    I saw one reference that included a bit saying it was "pepper balls" but I'd already guessed that they were using a capsaicin based attack, which is not technically tear gas, which, you see, makes some kind of important difference – or so the Park Police want you to believe.

    • Yeah, idiot protesters!  I bet they couldn't even correctly identify what breed of horse the mounted officers were riding!

  3. I make it a point to not attempt a rational discussion with anyone who simply insults whoever they disagree with, rather than dealing with the issues involved.  So let’s try considering an important issue…rationally, without rancor, or name-calling. 


    Let me begin this hopeful debate by pointing out that I am not a master chef, not a trained auto mechanic, not a physician, and certainly not a certified psychiatrist.  However, I know when an omelet’s been burnt, when a finger is broken, when my car’s brakes don’t work, and when a person is mentally deranged.


    Naturally, I might very well be wrong in any or all of these instances.  I could be in a restaurant in France, where I’m told that omelets are typically reheated and browned on the bottom.  That “broken” finger may simply be a congenital condition with no serious consequences.   I could, and have, accidentally put my foot on the wrong pedal.  And the object of my “analysis” could simply be clowning.


    But, should actual experts in any of these fields make such “diagnoses at a distance”?  That is a serious question, which is a crucial one in these troubled times.   Here goes my attempt to answer it.


    Not being a psychiatrist, I see no reason why I can’t state unequivocally, and based entirely on his tweets, speeches, interviews, and his public statements, that President Donald Trump is mentally ill.


    But, should a professional psychiatrist make such a statement about our President?  My answer is “yes”.  Diagnosis at a distance by professionals in their field of expertise is ordinarily, at the very least, an absurdity.  But, as in many instances in this life, actions which may be flat-out wrong in most instances could, under extenuating circumstances, be essential.


    Since Donald Trump is clearly one of the most powerful  persons on earth, can order someone killed without being held to account, may even plunge us into war through his position as Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces…public  recognition of his fragile mental condition by psychiatrists is not only acceptable but even required.


    It has been some years since I’ve read Gulliver’s Travels, but I do remember that the protagonist did what would ordinarily be regarded as an unpardonable act…having made use of his giant stature and the contents of his bladder to urinate on the Lilliputian monarch’s palace.  But it was on fire, and that was the only water readily available.


    Maybe now is indeed the time when psychiatrists must commit what would ordinarily be an inexcusable offense, which consists of diagnosing a person at a distance.   However, this time the subject is a person who could do, and has already done, irreparable damage to others, to this country, and even to the world.


    And, perhaps, psychiatrists are even justified in analyzing at a distance anyone who can casually overlook the evidence that President Donald Trump is clearly showing signs of a serious mental illness.

    John A. Broussard

    [email protected]


  4. All of this is interesting; what interests me are Trump's supporters who think the whole spectacle was a smashing success. If it weren't for these people Trump would be some crazy nobody we could all ignore. All Trump has to do is wave a bible and these people are sold. They're so goddamned dumb they 1) can't see beneath the surface of things, and 2) they live in a biblical fantasy land and project their mental pictures onto this successful looking guy who says the stuff they want to hear. They're the easiest saps in the world to con. They're a collective mind and so it's especially hard for anyone to think for themselves, which is actively discouraged.

    I keep thinking of how millennials are fleeing Christianity like it's shag carpeting and eight track tapes.

    I'd like to know who thought up the whole stunt – Ivanka? as you suggest – and what was in their minds. As far as I know, nobody in the White House reads the bible or would be considered a Christian, and so this is kind of like a James O'Keefe stunt, where he cooks something up based on what he thinks the mark is interested in, which only reveals how stupid and juvenile he really is.

    Also: I'm not really sure the bible was upside-down. This is detail that I haven't seen a lot of corroboration for, so I just don't know.

    • moonbat.. Trump didn't hold the Bible upside down and backwards. In certain videos you can clearly see the printing on the spine of the Bible. It is a revised standard version (RSV) probably a 1953 Nelson edition. But for all intents and purposes it didn't matter what position Trump held it in because Trump's very existence is an affront of irreverence to the spirit of the Bible. Trump is just a big bag of shit, but he did position his prop properly.

  5. Trump was just inspecting the bunker.  Doesn't he have "people" for that?  And why on earth would he ever need it since he is the greatest president we have ever had?  And he is the chosen one and a genius to boot. 

  6. On top of the tsunami of deserved criticism swamping over his bad toupee already ,  James "Mad Dog" Mattis came out of his retirement "spider-hole," pulled down the trapdoor on tRUMP's onesies, and gave his ass a good, hard spanking!


    Thank you, General Mattis.  Better late than never, I guess!

    Now, as to the King Of Chaos' actions the other night. 

    Whether it was Ivanka's, Jared's, or the Bonkers Baby's himself, this photo-op idea turned a tragedy in the streets into a comedy in front if the church!  

    When given The Bible (which had been smuggled in Ivanka's purse for the trip from the White House to the church, apparently), tRUMP was so awkward when handlng it, it looked like he'd never held a book in his hands before (not an unlikely possibility).

    He turned it every which way (like some ape might), but never did what any rational person would have done in that situation:  OPEN THE DAMN BOOK! 

    And since he didn't read a passage out loud, he should have just faked reading it!  FAKED IT!  He could then have, when asked what passage he read, and why he didn't read it aloud, he could have said it was private.  It was a private prayer between him and the Lord!


    JAAAAAAAAAAYZOOS H. KEEEEEEEERIST in Heaven, wondering who's directing this Commedia dell'arte?!?

    Even a Middle Schooler, directing a play, would have had the simp open the book – even if only for effect! 

    This incident won't change (whatever passes for) the minds of tRUMP's MAGAts.

    But I think this fuster-cluck will long be remembered by the rational people in this decaying nation.

    tRUMP may have made his "I'm a tough guy" play once too often.

    Now, if they weren't before, everyone's wise to the grift.


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