Bowser Sheds New Light On Trump’s Brief Flirtation With Federalizing DC Police Force

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 22: Mayor Muriel Bower (Photo by Brian Stukes/Getty Images)
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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser fleshed out an incident stemming from the George Floyd protests in June 2020 during her interview with the Jan. 6 committee, the transcript of which was released Thursday. 

For a period amid the protests — which were particularly large in the district — the Trump administration flirted with the idea of federalizing the Metropolitan Police Department, the D.C. police force. 

Bowser had gone public with her concerns about that plan before, but added more detail in her conversation with the committee investigators. 

She described getting a call about the idea as she was walking from her car into her house.

“I got back in the car. I told the team we would all meet down at City Hall,” she said. “And I had to make a call to our counsel, our attorney general for the district all because this is a real kind of threat to our governance.” 

She told the investigators that Mark Meadows, then-White House chief of staff, was speaking for the White House on the idea.

“His basic tenor was that this was going to happen,” she added of Meadows, “there was nothing I could do about it.”

Bowser said she pushed back hard.

“I’m telling them it would be a complete disaster; we’re going to lose the city,” she said. “I was concerned that we would have a riot in the district. I mean, a real one.” 

The investigator pressed on the question of why the Trump administration was interested in federalizing the force in the first place. 

“They didn’t want protests outside of the White House,” Bowser responded. 

Bowser said that then-Attorney General Bill Barr was the administration’s point person on law enforcement at the time. She added that while he had led “some pretty outrageous conduct in the summer” she also thinks that he might have been able to exert some control over Trump on Jan. 6, had he still been working for the administration. 

The Trump administration ultimately backed off the idea to federalize the D.C. force, though it did flood the streets with members of the National Guard who, infamously, flew military helicopters menacingly low over the protesters. 

Trump at the time was fuming at scenes from the protests, which were widely covered on TV, and threatening to turn to more extreme measures to quash them. He forcibly cleared protesters from Lafayette Square for a photo op where he held a Bible aloft in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

“We already live with the offense of limited home rule, despite being taxpaying Americans,” Bowser said of the push to federalize the police. “And for this President, especially, to trample on that, we could not abide that.” 

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