The episode, which was one of the most charged and discordant moments in recent presidential history, came as nationwide unrest escalates and as Trump comes under pressure to demonstrate a modicum of reconciliation for a country torn along racial, ideological and political lines.
He did not give that on Monday, choosing instead to opt out. He called violent protests "domestic terrorist acts" that law enforcement would "dominate the streets" to stop.
"If a city or state refuses to take the necessary measures to defend the lives and properties of their residents, I will distribute the US military and quickly solve the problem for them," Trump said.
With the constant sound of helicopter blades over his head and a steady sequence of smack from nearby Lafayette Park, Trump declared himself an "ally of all peaceful protesters."
But as he spoke, peaceful protesters quickly dispersed outside the gates of the White House by police using rubber bullets, tear gas and lightning smack. Several protesters were seen pouring water into their eyes to ease the gas sting.
Later, Trump walked the park to St. John & # 39; s Episcopal Church, a god-house used by American presidents for more than a century that were partially burned in a Sunday night protest.
"We have the largest country in the world," Trump said in front of the church, holding a Bible and surrounded by aides, including national security adviser Robert O. & # 39; Brien, Attorney General Bill Barr, senior counsel and son-in-law Jared Kushner, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
He remained in the building for a few minutes before returning to the White House.
Prior to Trump's address, a crowd gathered outside the White House gates in front of a 7 p.m. ET curfew imposed by the Washington mayor, including near the church.
A large convoy of military vehicles was seen driving through the White House complex and onto Pennsylvania Avenue before Trump showed up to speak.
Trump said from the Rose Garden he was committed to upholding laws and mobilizing military resources to end nationwide looting.
"My first and highest duty as president is to defend our great country and the American people," Trump said. "I swore an oath to uphold the laws of our nation, and that's exactly what I want to do."
In striking terms, Trump said he would use the entire president's prerogative – including threatening to invoke a rarely used law dating back to 1807 – to secure violent protests, declaring that he would distribute "thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement "to get order.
Prior to his resignation Monday night, a debate had raged among Trump's advisers on how and whether to address protests that have spread to dozens of cities.
And Trump even got angry at the coverage depicting him raised in an underground bunker. He told assistants Monday that he wanted to be seen outside the gates of the White House, according to a person familiar with the matter, who is part of what drove the decision to arrange a photo op at St. John's Church .
Trump and his family were rushed to an underground bunker at the White House complex as protests raged outside the building Friday night. Trump was not seen on Sunday and spent most of Monday behind closed doors – causing concern even from his allies that he was absent in a moment of national crisis.
Many of the president's traditional defenders – from campaigners to Republicans on Capitol Hill to some in the conservative media – privately mumbled that Trump let go several days without addressing the nation or making any formal appeals for unity.
A major campaigner worried about the damage caused by Trump's absence during a historic weekend of violence and pain could alone prevent his re-election.
A growing number of congressional Republicans, even Trump's allies, also privately said "caps lock" tweets about Damping down protests using harsh tactics was not helping the situation. Republican Senate Tim Scott of South Carolina said on "Fox News Sunday" that he had spoken to Trump over the weekend about his inflammatory tweets, which he described as "non-constructive."
Over the weekend, some aides tried to convince Trump not to use violent rhetoric after he posted on Twitter that "when the looting starts the shooting starts," warning language as it may mean an already flammable situation and does not appear as president.
A senior White House aide said governors and mayors should be the ones to respond to the devastation in their respective cities and states – a view shared at least in part by Trump, who has spent days searching for local leaders for not to call the National Guard fast enough or strike out violently enough.
Other White House officials quarreled over the weekend against something as formal as an Oval Office address, a well-known person said, worried that such a speech could "serve the situation, not make it better."
As a media debate over whether to confront the situation, Trump's back and forth between violent rhetoric and a more measured tone has weighed in on the deliberations, said one official. Some advisers are wondering if a presidential address asking for calm would be quickly erased by Trump's own penchant for escalation and instigation.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny, Kaitlan Collins, Jim Acosta, Dana Bash, and Vicky Ward contributed to this report.