President Donald Trump pushed back against criticism of his visit to the burned "church of presidents," St. John's Episcopal, across the street from the White House, telling Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview "religious leaders loved it."
"I went there because somebody suggested it was a good idea," Trump told host Sean Spicer of "Spicer & Co.," adding, "I thought it was a great idea."
Trump marched across Pennsylvania Avenue with an entourage Tuesday, crossing Lafayette Square park, after pledging in a speech at the White House to use military resources to quell violece in the George Floyd protests. He raised a Bible and stood in front of the church that was seriously damaged by protesters the night before.
He dismissed the idea that peaceful protesters had been forced from the park prior to his visit, stating the military just moved back the protesters gathered there.
"Somebody said, 'Oh, they were so peaceful,'" Trump said. "Well, they tried to burn down the church the day before and almost succeeded, and the church was badly hurt. That church was built at the same time as the White House. [Former President John] Adams was the first president/parishioner."
Trump elaborated on the symbolic march to the church, suggesting it was rather spontaneous. Said Trump, "Someone suggested it. I said, 'Let's go; let's walk.' And we walked from the White House. I think everything was handled very well."
The president told Spicer: "It is a very important symbol. They tried to burn it down. Then I heard what wonderful people they were: No, they tried to burn down the church."
He added, "I will tell you religious leaders loved it. Religious leaders thought it was great. Religious leaders loved it."
The Rev. Johnnie Moore, the informal spokesman for Trump's Evangelical Council, tweeted Tuesday:
"I will never forget seeing @RealDonaldTrump slowly and in total command walk from the White House across Lafayette Square to St. John's Church, defying those who aim to derail our national healing by spreading fear, hate, and anarchy."
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