Protesters 'Very Violently Attacked' Kenosha Shooter
After a lengthy denunciation of the Democratic Party and the ongoing protests against racism and police brutality during a Monday news conference at the White House, Trump refused to condemn the gunman who killed two protesters and shot a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last week.
"He was trying to get away from them," Trump said of the skirmish between 17-year-old Rittenhouse and several protesters on August 25. "I guess it looks like he fell, and then they very violently attacked him ... But I guess he was in very big trouble. He probably would have been killed."
“I’d like to see law enforcement take care of everything," Trump said about the protests, but he added that cops' power has been "taken away" because they fear the consequences of making a wrong decision.
Rittenhouse has since been charged with first-degree murder of the two protesters shot and killed, attempted first-degree murder of the third protester who was wounded, as well as several other counts related to the incident.
Trump's comments follow a defense of Rittenhouse's actions by several right-wing media figures, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who mused: "Are we really surprised that looting and arson accelerated to murder? How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with rifles decided they had to maintain order when no one else would?"
It has been widely claimed, but not confirmed, that Rittenhouse was present and armed at the protests in Kenosha in conjunction with several other members of a right-wing militia group.
Earlier on Monday, White House Press Secretary Kelly McEnany told reporters Trump was "not going to weigh in on" Rittenhouse's actions.
REPORTER: Does the president condemn the actions of Kyle Rittenhouse, who is accused of shooting protesters?— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 31, 2020
McENANY: The president is not going to weigh in on that pic.twitter.com/MNaL1tkESx
Pro-Trump Portland Protest Was 'Totally Peaceful'
Trump was asked by reporters why, if he had condemned Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden for failing to denounce the left-wing Antifa movement, he had not similarly denounced the right-wing Patriot Prayer group that violently clashed with protesters in Portland over the weekend.
The group, which has been flagged by the Southern Poverty Law Center's "Hate Watch" as a "far-right group" that "frequently engag[es] in violence against their political opponents," engaged in a pro-Trump rally in the Oregon city on Saturday. As those protesters clashed with Black Lives Matter demonstrators in the city, they reportedly fired paintballs into the crowd, drove their trucks through the crowd and sprayed protesters with bear mace.
In an incident still being investigated by area law enforcement, a Patriot Prayer member named Jay Bishop was shot and killed.
“Paint is a defensive mechanism, paint is not bullets," Trump said Monday.
“They went in very peacefully ... it was a peaceful protest totally," the president maintained as reporters objected to his comments. "They’re protesting when they turn on the television” and see violence in cities Trump added; “they say, 'This is not our country.'"
The day prior, Trump retweeted a tribute to Bishop, saying, "Rest In Peace Jay!"
More Than 200 Protesters Arrested
Trump told reporters that federal law enforcement had arrested more than 200 protesters across the country as part of a new operation in which they comb through video footage of protest events to identify suspects. He also announced a joint operation with the Department of Homeland Security, which includes several federal law enforcement agencies, to investigate “violent left wing civil unrest."
The president repeated more than half a dozen times during the press conference that the protests and violence were the worst in cities run by Democratic Party politicians, calling it “the Joe Biden Party."
“Left-wing rioters are repeating the same false narrative about America” that you hear from Democratic politicians, Trump said. "The violent rioters share Biden’s talking points and they share his agenda."
Trump said that at a recent event in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Biden denounced right-wing violence but not left-wing violence, “and those on the left are the problem."
“There’s just a war on law enforcement in this country, and without law enforcement, we wouldn’t have a country," Trump said. "If you give the radical left power, what you’re seeing in the radical left cities will be brought to every city” in the US.
“Biden’s strategy is to surrender to the left-wing mob ... give them control over every lever of power in the government,” Trump said, adding that 'when you surrender” to the mob, you get fascism. "Look at Venezuela."
Kenosha Trip Won't Feature Blake Family Meeting
Trump also noted that while he will be going ahead with his planned visit to Kenosha, Wisconsin, later this week, he would not be meeting with the family of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man whose shooting by police last week sparked a new wave of protests in Kenosha and across the country.
“I thought it would be better not to do anything where there are lawyers involved," Trump said, noting that he had spoken with the family's pastor, but that the family wanted a lawyer on the phone with them if they spoke to the president.
On Sunday, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers asked Trump to "reconsider" his planned visit to Kenosha, noting community leaders "are concerned about what your presence will mean for Kenosha and our state."
"I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing. I am concerned your presence will only delay our work to overcome division and move forward together," Evers wrote.
“I have to see the people who did such a good job for me," Trump said about the national guardsmen dispatched to the Midwestern city to crush the protests. “It could increase love and respect for our country.”
Blake survived the incident, in which a police officer shot him at least four times in the back, but is paralyzed below the waist.