Jun 2, 2020 - Politics & Policy

GOP senators scold Trump over St. John's photo op

Sen. Tim Scott. Photo: Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images
Sen. Tim Scott. Photo: Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images

Republican lawmakers are weighing in on President Trump's decision to tear gas and physically clear peaceful protesters from outside the White House on Monday in order to stand in front of the historic St. John's Episcopal Church for a photo.

The state of play: While some Republicans are backing the president's actions and condemning protesters, others have criticized the decision and called for improvement.

What they're saying: Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the only black Republican in the Senate, said sternly on Tuesday, "If your question is, 'Should you use tear gas to clear a path so the president can go have a photo op,' the answer is no."

  • Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) in a statement: "There is no right to riot, no right to destroy others’ property, and no right to throw rocks at police. But there is a fundamental — a Constitutional — right to protest, and I’m against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the Word of God as a political prop."
  • Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), when asked by NBC if Trump could do better: "We all could."
  • Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) told NBC that he's seen "conflicting reports" on what happened outside the White House.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said of Trump's actions: "I’m not going to critique other people’s performances."
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she does "not believe that that the tone coming from the president right now is helping. It's not helping me as a leader."
  • Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) when asked if the president is projecting calm right now: "I hope so. He has moments. But, you know, I mean, as you know, it lasts generally as long as the next tweet."

But some lawmakers commended Trump's actions, while others claimed to have not followed the event.

  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) when asked by NBC if he believes abuse of power occurred yesterday, stated, "By the protesters, yes. The violence"
  • Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) said he was "grateful for the president’s leadership."
  • Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah): "I didn’t watch it closely enough to know."
  • Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said he "didn’t really see it."
  • Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.): "I didn’t follow, I’m sorry."
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