esident Donald Trump on Wednesday denied that he was rushed to a White House bunker during anti-racism protests last week out of concern for his safety, claiming he had merely dropped by the underground shelter to inspect it.
“I was there for a tiny, little short period of time,” Trump said during a radio interview with Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade. “And it was much more for an inspection.”
He continued: “I’ve gone down two or three times ― all for inspection. And you go there, some day you may need it. … I went down, I looked at it.”
Secret Service reportedly rushed Trump to the bunker, known as the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, on Friday night as hundreds of protesters gathered outside the White House during nationwide demonstrations sparked by George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
Trump spent nearly an hour in the bunker, which was designed for use in emergencies like terrorist attacks, a Republican close to the White House told The Associated Press.
Then-President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were brought to the bunker in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The structure has been reinforced to withstand the force of a passenger jet crashing into the executive mansion above.
Trump and his family were rattled by their experience Friday night, The New York Times reported, citing multiple advisers.
Kilmeade asked Trump about whether he was brought to the bunker on Sunday. It’s unclear whether Kilmeade meant to ask about Friday, which is when Trump was reported to have been escorted to the bunker.
Either way, Trump denied going there at any time during the night.
“It was during the day,” he told Kilmeade. “It was not a problem. … We never had a problem. Nobody came close to giving us a problem.”
Asked if Secret Service wanted to bring him down there for safety reasons, Trump said no.
“They didn’t tell me that at all,” the president said. “But they said it would be a good time to go down, take a look because maybe sometime you’re going to need it.”
Protests outside the White House intensified over the weekend, with some demonstrators throwing rocks and trying to break through barricades.
In a dramatic speech Monday from the White House Rose Garden, Trump vowed a violent crackdown by the military on civil unrest in U.S. cities amid the anti-racism protests. He then walked with a group of aides to nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo-op.
Moments earlier, federal law enforcers sprayed tear gas and fired rubber bullets to disperse a crowd of peaceful protesters in front of the White House.
Trump wanted to be seen outside, in part, because he was angered by coverage that depicted him as hiding in a bunker during the protests, CNN reported.