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

Civil rights groups filed a lawsuit Thursday against President Trump, Attorney General Bill Barr and other federal officials on behalf of Black Lives Matter and other peaceful protesters who were forcibly removed with rubber bullets and chemical irritants before Trump's photo-op at the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church on Monday.

What they're saying: "The President's shameless, unconstitutional, unprovoked, and frankly criminal attack on protesters because he disagreed with their views shakes the foundation of our nation’s constitutional order," said ACLU of D.C. legal director Scott Michelman. "And when the nation's top law enforcement officer becomes complicit in the tactics of an autocrat, it chills protected speech for all of us."

  • "Across the country, law enforcement armed with military weaponry are responding with violence to people who are protesting police brutality," added Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project.
  • "The First Amendment right to protest is under attack, and we will not let this go unanswered. This is the first of many lawsuits the ACLU intends to file across the country in response to police brutality against protesters."

The big picture: Former Defense Secretary James Mattis, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and some Republican lawmakers have condemned Trump's decision to physically clear peaceful protesters from the scene.

The other side: 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 Trump's subsequent visit to the church.

Go deeper: Trump walks to historic St. John's Church outside White House as protests rage

Go deeper

Bill Barr defends DOJ action in Trump defamation lawsuit

Attorney General William Barr. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The White House asked the Department of Justice to intervene in the defense of President Trump's defamation lawsuit brought by writer E. Jean Carroll, who's accused him of rape, Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday.

Driving the news: Carroll said the DOJ's move to replace Trump's private lawyers in the case shows that he "will do everything possible, including using the full powers of the federal government," to block her. But Barr said the intervention was "a normal application of the law."

Updated 6 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 32,471,119 — Total deaths: 987,593 — Total recoveries: 22,374,557Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 7,032,524 — Total deaths: 203,657 — Total recoveries: 2,727,335 — Total tests: 99,483,712Map.
  3. States: "We’re not closing anything going forward": Florida fully lifts COVID restaurant restrictions — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam tests positive for coronavirus.
  4. Health: Young people accounted for 20% of cases this summer.
  5. Business: Coronavirus has made airports happier places The expiration of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance looms.
  6. Education: Where bringing students back to school is most risky.
Mike Allen, author of AM
3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden pushes unity message in new TV wave

A fresh Joe Biden ad, "New Start," signals an effort by his campaign to make unity a central theme, underscoring a new passage in his stump speech that says he won't be a president just for Democrats but for all Americans.

What he's saying: The ad — which began Friday night, and is a follow-up to "Fresh Start" — draws from a Biden speech earlier in the week in Manitowoc, Wisconsin: