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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.

Go deeper

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.

Go deeper: Trump and Biden ready to refight 1968

Woman who allegedly stole laptop from Pelosi's office to sell to Russia is arrested

Photo: FBI

A woman accused of breaching the Capitol and planning to sell to Russia a laptop or hard drive she allegedly stole from Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office was arrested in Pennsylvania's Middle District Monday, the Department of Justice said.

Driving the news: Riley June Williams, 22, is charged with illegally entering the Capitol as well as violent entry and disorderly conduct. She has not been charged over the laptop allegation and the case remains under investigation, per the DOJ.

Biden will reverse Trump's attempt to lift COVID-related travel restrictions

Photo: Tasos Katopodis via Getty

The incoming Biden administration will reverse President Trump's last-minute order to lift COVID-19 related travel restrictions, Jen Psaki, the incoming White House press secretary, tweeted.

Why it matters: President Trump ordered entry bans lifted for travelers from the U.K., Ireland, Brazil and much of Europe to go into effect Jan. 26, but the Biden administration will "strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Jen Psaki said. Biden will be inaugurated on Wednesday, Jan. 20 and Trump will no longer be president by the time the order is set to go into effect.