President Trump's brief excursion to St. John's Episcopal Church for a photo op with a Bible on Monday evening was apparently a big hit inside the West Wing — the official White House Twitter feed features a campaign-like music video of the amble. After Trump's aides "spent much of Monday expressing outrage" over limited arson at the historic church, The New York Times reports, "Hope Hicks, a presidential adviser, eventually hatched a plan with others at the White House to have the president walk over to the building."
Trump was anxious to leave the White House, reportedly irked by coverage of him being whisked to a secure bunker. "A number of people reached out directly to the president or his top aides to tell them, with great urgency, that he needed to be seen," Axios reports. "They saw signs on Twitter that the conservative base was turning against him."
Hicks was part of the entourage that crossed Lafayette Square with Trump after federal police used tear gas and flash grenades to clear the public park of protesters. Attorney General William Barr, Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Mark Milley, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper also accompanied Trump so he could hold a Bible in front of the church.
A senior White House official told Axios "I've never been more ashamed" than after watching the tear-gassing of protesters to pave Trump's path, adding: "I'm really honestly disgusted. I'm sick to my stomach. And they're all celebrating it. They're very very proud of themselves."
Bishop Mariann Budde, the top Episcopal official in Washington, was disappointed, too. One of the visiting priests at St. John's was tear-gassed in the square, she said, and neither the Bible nor the church should be used as a political prop. "The Bible is not an American document," Budde told the Times. "It's not an expression of our country. It's an expression of the human struggle to serve and love and know God."