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Trump says he went to underground bunker Friday but only to “inspect” it

By Kathryn Watson, June 3, 2020 , CBS News

President Trump acknowledges that he went to the bunker underneath the White House Friday, but claimed he did so more for an “inspection.”

He also said that he went in the afternoon, not in the evening as had been reported, when the scene outside the White House became much more chaotic. 

In a Fox News Radio interview Wednesday, the president said he was only in the bunker for “a short period of time” and claimed the Secret Service had told him it would be a good time to look at the bunker because “maybe sometime you’re going to need it.” 

The New York Times first reported the president went to the bunker Friday night for nearly an hour as protests became violent Friday evening. A senior administration official who confirmed to CBS News the president was briefly moved to the bunker Friday evening as protests wore on said the action was taken out of an abundance of caution. 

For the past several days, the nation’s capital has been filled with protesters objecting to the death of George Floyd in police custody and broader concerns about police brutality. The Trump administration is still facing criticism over the president’s visit to St. John’s Episcopal Church on Sunday, a visit made possible after police forcibly pushed out peaceful protesters. The president’s own secretary of defense, Mark Esper, on Wednesday referred to the president’s brief stop in front of the church as a “photo op.”

The president told Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade he didn’t know the protesters had to be cleared.

“When I said ‘go to the church,’ I didn’t know protesters or not, nobody tells me that,” Mr. Trump said on the radio. “They say, ‘Yessir, we’ll go to the church.’ … I didn’t say, ‘Oh, move them out.'”

Mr. Trump struggled to answer questions from Kilmeade on what needs to be done to address the injustices felt by the black community when it comes to policing, pivoting instead to his poll numbers with African-Americans.

When Kilmeade pointed to a poll that found that only 36% of black Americans say they trust their local police and asked how to fix that, the president replied that it’s a “very sad problem,” before claiming he’s doing well with African-Americans in the polls.

The president also pointed to prior unemployment numbers for African-Americans, which have since jumped amid the Coronavirus crisis. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 89% of voters back former Vice President Joe Biden over Mr. Trump.

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