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White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday defended President Trump's visit to St. John's Episcopal Church for a photo op Monday, comparing it to Winston Churchill inspecting bombing damage during World War II and George W. Bush throwing out the first pitch after 9/11.

Why it matters: Trump has received widespread criticism for the visit, including from clergy members at the church and even some Republican lawmakers. In order to safely allow the president and his entourage to walk to the church, police were ordered to forcibly remove largely peaceful protesters with smoke canisters and pepper balls.

The big picture: McEnany called the display a "message of resilience and determination," and said it was important for Trump to make the visit because rioters had set a fire in the basement of the historic church the night before.

  • She said Trump wanted to show that violence "would not prevail" and that the president holding the Bible "was an important symbol for the American people to see that we will get through this through unity and faith."
  • McEnany also said that Attorney General Bill Barr ordered the perimeter of Lafayette Square to be cleared on Monday morning, not the White House. She did not clarify why police didn't fulfill the order until that evening, shortly before Trump and his aides walked to the church.

What she's saying:

"I would note that through all of time, we have seen presidents and leaders across the world who have had leadership moments and very powerful symbols that were important for a nation to see at any given time to show a message of resilience and determination. Like Churchill — we saw him inspecting the bombing damage, it sent a powerful message of leadership to the British people. And George W. Bush throwing out the ceremonial first pitch after 9/11, and Jimmy Carter putting on a sweater to encourage energy savings, and George H.W. Bush signing the Americans with Disabilities Act flanked by two disabled Americans.
And for this president, it was powerful and important to send a message that the rioters, the looters, the anarchists, they will not prevail. That burning churches are not what America is about, and that moment, holding the Bible up, is something that has been wildly hailed by Franklin Graham and others and it was a very important symbol for the American people to see that we will get through this through unity and through faith."
— Kayleigh McEnany at a press briefing Wednesday

Go deeper: National Park Service defends clearing of protesters outside White House

Go deeper

Biden says he spoke with Jacob Blake by phone for 15 minutes

Former VP Joe Biden arriving in Wisconsin. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Image

Joe Biden spoke with Jacob Blake by phone on Thursday for 15 minutes during a private meeting with Blake's family in Wisconsin.

Driving the news: This was Biden's third time out on the campaign trail this week — the former VP has largely stuck to virtual events until now. He spent most of his time in Wisconsin listening to residents about their concerns and hopes for the way forward as the community reels from Blake's shooting.

Updated 2 mins ago - World

North Korea claims latest missile test new weapon launched from submarine

North Korean state media claims the country's military fired this missile on Tuesday. Photo: Korean Central News Agency

North Korean state media announced that a detected ballistic missile launch off its east coast on Tuesday was a newly developed weapon test-fired from a submarine.

Why it matters: Pyongyang's latest in a series of recent missile launches into the sea happened hours after U.S. officials emphasized their commitment to restart negotiations on North Korea's nuclear weapons program, which have stalled since talks broke down during the Trump administration, AP notes.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Manchin's massive means test

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is offering progressives a trade: He'll vote for their cherished social programs if they accept strict income caps for the recipients, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Manchin’s plan to use so-called means-testing for everything from paid family medical leave to elder and disabled care would drastically shrink the size and scope of the programs. It also would bring a key moderate vote to the progressive cause.

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