Trump denies he was rushed to White House bunker for protection

This article is more than 12 months old

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump yesterday denied media reports that he was rushed to the White House bunker for his safety while protests raged in the streets outside.

"It was a false report," Mr Trump told Fox News radio, before elaborating that he did go into the secure area but only for a "tiny, little, short period time".

According to The New York Times, quoting an unidentified source described as having direct knowledge, Secret Service bodyguards took Mr Trump into the bunker on Friday night.

Outside in Lafayette Square, crowds of people protesting police brutality fought running battles with officers and set fires.

According to Fox News, Mr Trump was taken to the bunker on Sunday.

He said he had gone down but only during the day, not the night, as reported, and that he was partly doing so to carry out an "inspection".

He said: "You go there, some day you may need it. You go there, I went down. I looked at it. It was during the day. It was not a problem.

"I read about it, like a big thing. There was never a problem, we never had a problem, nobody ever came close to giving us a problem.

"The Secret Service does an unbelievable job of maintaining control of the White House."

Reports of Mr Trump taking shelter sparked a wave of online mockery, which is believed to have contributed to his decision on Monday to make a controversial walk across Lafayette Park to visit the partly damaged church of St. John's.

Police violently dispersed mostly peaceful crowds of protesters to clear a path for Mr Trump. To cap his show of strength, he stood outside the church for pictures of him holding up a Bible.

Mr Trump also said yesterday that he did not ask for protesters to be moved out before he walked to the church.

"They didn't use tear gas," he told the radio station, contradicting reports by a large number of protesters and reporters that tear gas was deployed to move them away from the church.

"Now, when I went, I didn't say 'Oh, move them out'. I didn't know who was there."

He said nobody told him there were protesters when he decided to walk to the church.

Typically, presidents who have attended services at St. John's have arrived in a motorcade.

"They say, 'yes, sir, we'll go to the church.' So we walked out to the church. It was very fast," Mr Trump said.

Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said he was unaware that he would be part of Mr Trump's politically-charged photo opportunity outside the church. - AFP, REUTERS