President Donald Trump on Wednesday denied reports that he retreated to the underground bunker beneath the White House last Friday night as protests outside the executive mansion escalated, insisting he only visited the secure facility for a brief time during the day for the purposes of “inspection.”
“It was a false report. I wasn’t down. I went down during the day, and I was there for a tiny, little, short period of time. And it was much more for an inspection. There was no problem during the day,” Trump told “Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade on his Fox News radio show.
The president went on to argue that any “problems” posed by the protesters would have come “during the night, not during the day,” and said that although he “read about it like a big thing, it was never a problem. We never had a problem. Nobody ever came close to giving us a problem.”
Trump also maintained that the Secret Service did not order him to the bunker, but merely “said it would be a good time to go down, take a look, because maybe some time you're going to need it.” Since assuming office in early 2017, Trump has entered the bunker roughly “two-and-a-half” times, he said.
Trump repeatedly emphasized that his most recent trip to the bunker lasted a “very, very short period of time,” and stressed to Kilmeade that it took place during daylight hours. “Brian, it was during the day. It wasn’t during the night. I think they reported during the night,” he said, adding: “There’s so much fake news going around, Brian. You have no idea.”
Trump’s apparent fixation on media accounts of his sheltering in the bunker — formally known as the Presidential Emergency Operations Center — comes after additional reporting in recent days has indicated it was his frustration with those initial news stories that partly provoked him to speak from the White House and stage a subsequent photo opportunity at a nearby church earlier this week.
In remarks delivered Monday evening in the Rose Garden, Trump threatened the use of military force to quash a nationwide wave of racial unrest. Meanwhile, police officers and National Guard units fired rubber bullets, deployed flash bangs and set off tear gas bombs to force protesters from Lafayette Square, on the north side of the White House.
The aggressive tactics by law enforcement allowed the president, his top political aides and senior administration officials to cross the street and stand in front of the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church, where Trump held up a Bible for the news cameras.
The president faced overwhelming criticism at home and abroad for spurring the violent incursion against seemingly peaceful protesters, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper has since said “I didn’t know where I was going” when he joined Trump on the controversial excursion.