President Trump with Esper following behind him. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told NBC on Tuesday he had no notice that he was being led with President Trump on Monday to a photo op at St. John's Episcopal Church, saying: "I thought I was going to do two things: to see some damage and to talk to the troops."

Why it matters: The visit has received backlash from both sides of the political aisle as well as clergy from the church.

  • The Trump administration used physical force and pepper balls to disperse crowds from outside the White House so the president could snap the photo.

What he's saying: "I didn't know where I was going," Esper told NBC. "I wanted to see how much damage actually happened."

  • Esper also said he had no awareness of plans to disperse protesters, but that he's very proud of the National Guard" following their nationwide response to civil unrests.

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Trump to visit Kenosha amid anger over Jacob Blake shooting

President Trump visiting an emergency operation center in Orange, Texas, on Saturday. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump will visit Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Tuesday amid unrest over the Aug. 23 police shooting that left Jacob Blake paralyzed from the waist down, the White House confirmed.

Why it matters: Per AP, Trump's trip is "certain to exacerbate tensions in the city, where a crowd of about 1,000 demonstrators gathered outside a courthouse Saturday to denounce police violence." White House spokesperson Judd Deere told reporters the president would "survey damage from recent riots," AFP reports. Trump is touting his law and order credentials as he seeks re-election.

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Commission on Presidential Debates wants changes

Photos: Jim Watson and Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Wednesday that it plans to implement changes to rules for the remaining debates, after Tuesday night's head-to-head between Joe Biden and Donald Trump was practically incoherent for most of the night.

What they are saying: "Last night's debate made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues," the CPD said in a statement.

Trump says he doesn't know who Proud Boys are after telling them to "stand by"

President Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he doesn't know who the "Proud Boys" are, after saying at the presidential debate last night that the far-right group should "stand back and stand by" in response to a question asking him to condemn white supremacists.

Why it matters: The comments set off outrage and calls for clarification from a number of Republican senators. After being asked several times on Wednesday whether he will condemn white supremacy, Trump responded: "I have always denounced any form — any form of any of that, you have to denounce. But I also — Joe Biden has to say something about antifa."