Attorney General Bill Barr said at a press conference Thursday that there was "no correlation" between his decision to order police to forcibly remove protesters from Lafayette Park and President Trump's subsequent visit to St. John's Episcopal Church earlier this week.

Driving the news: Barr was asked to respond to comments from Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who said Tuesday that he "did not know a photo op was happening" and that he does everything he can to "try and stay out of situations that may appear political."

What he's saying: "My interest was to carry out the law enforcement functions of the federal government and to protect federal facilities and federal personnel, and also to address the rioting that was interfering with the governments' function. That was what we were doing," Barr said.

  • "I think the president is the head of the executive branch and the chief executive of the nation and should be able to walk outside the White House and walk across the street to the 'church of presidents.' I don't necessarily view that as a political act," he continued.
  • "I think it was entirely appropriate for him to do. I did not know that he was going to do that until later in the day after our plans were well underway to move the perimeter."

The big picture: Barr said that authorities have made 51 arrests for federal crimes related to rioting, and that the Justice Department has evidence that "antifa and other similar extremist groups" have been involved in attempts to incite violence.

  • Asked why he directly named antifa instead of citing examples of right-wing extremists that have already been arrested, Barr said: "I think it's important to point out the witches' brew that we have of extremist individuals and groups that are involved."
  • "That is why in my prepared statement, I specifically said in addition to antifa and other groups like antifa, there were a variety of groups and people of a variety of ideological persuasions. So I did make that point."

Go deeper

Ousted former U.S. attorney for SDNY to testify before House Judiciary Committee

Berman in October 2019 in New York City. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

Geoffrey Berman, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, is scheduled to testify to the House Judiciary Committee next week on the circumstances of his forced resignation, Politico reports, citing a congressional aide.

Why it matters: As the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, Berman oversaw high-profile cases that worried and angered President Trump and his inner circle, including an investigation into his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. His removal has added to allegations by Democrats that Attorney General Bill Barr has politicized the Justice Department under President Trump.

Updated 33 mins ago - Science

Hurricane Isaias makes landfall in North Carolina

People walk through floodwaters on Ocean Blvd. in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on Monday. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Hurricane Isaias made landfall as a Category 1 storm near Ocean Isle Beach in southern North Carolina at 11:10 p.m. ET Monday, packing maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, per the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

What's happening: Hurricane conditions were spreading onto the coast of eastern South Carolina and southeastern N.C., the NHC said in an 11 p.m. update. Ocean Isle Beach Mayor Debbie Smith told WECT News the eye of the storm triggered "a series of fires at homes" and "a lot of flooding." Fire authorities confirmed they were responding to "multiple structure fires in the area."

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 18,224,253 — Total deaths: 692,679 — Total recoveries — 10,865,548Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 4,713,500 — Total deaths: 155,401 — Total recoveries: 1,513,446 — Total tests: 57,543,852Map.
  3. Politics: White House will require staff to undergo randomized coronavirus testing — Pelosi says Birx "enabled" Trump on misinformation.
  4. Sports: 13 members of St. Louis Cardinals test positive, prompting MLB to cancel Tigers series — Former FDA chief says MLB outbreaks should be warning sign for schools.
  5. 1 🎥 thing: "Tenet" may be the first major film to get a global pandemic release.