President Donald Trump said the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security would create a joint program to combat what he called “left-wing” unrest, the day before he visits a Wisconsin city roiled by protests.
Trump met with Attorney General Bill Barr and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf on Monday before a Monday evening news conference in which he again accused his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, of encouraging violence in several American cities that have seen protests against racial injustice and police brutality.
Trump claimed that Biden, the former vice president, had “given moral aid and comfort to the vandals.”
Barr and Wolf’s agencies, he said, “are announcing a joint operations center to investigate the violent left-wing civil unrest.” He didn’t elaborate on how the operation would work.
Even as he denounced violence by some of the protesters, Trump suggested that an Illinois youth arrested in the fatal shootings of two people during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, had acted in self defense. “I guess he was in very big trouble. he probably would have been killed,” Trump said of Kyle Rittenhouse, who has been charged with homicide in the two deaths, adding “it’s under investigation.”
Rittenhouse has expressed support for Trump and police on social media.
On Monday afternoon, Biden delivered a fiery rebuttal to charges by the president and his allies that he’s a socialist and soft on crime. He also tried to turn the argument against Trump. “This president long ago forfeited any moral leadership in this country,” he said in Pittsburgh. “He can’t stop the violence -- because for years he has fomented it.”
Trump plans to travel to Kenosha on Tuesday. Protests erupted there last week after police shot a 29-year-old Black man, Jacob Blake, multiple times in the back. Trump said he wouldn’t meet with Blake’s family because they wanted a lawyer involved in the conversation. “I said ‘no, that’s inappropriate,”’ Trump said.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers wrote Trump on Sunday to ask him to reconsider the visit, expressing concern that the president -- who has frequently criticized people protesting police brutality as rioters -- would exacerbate tensions.
“I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing,” Evers wrote in a letter to Trump. “I am concerned your presence will only delay our work to overcome division and move forward together.”
White House spokesman Judd Deere said Trump would proceed with his trip.
“The White House has been humbled by the outreach of individuals from Kenosha who have welcomed the president’s visit and are longing for leadership to support local law enforcement and businesses that have been vandalized,” Deere said. “President Trump looks forward to visiting on Tuesday and helping this great city heal and rebuild.”
‘Law and Order’
Trump has demanded “law and order” in the U.S. amid continuing protests against police brutality and racial injustice and inequality that have followed the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in the custody of the Minneapolis police in May. He has repeatedly warned that a Democratic victory in November would usher in rule by the far left, and his stance as a defender of what he calls traditional American values has become a key thrust of his re-election campaign.
Polls show Biden leading nationally and in many battleground states. Polls also show that most voters disapprove of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 183,000 Americans, and Trump has sought to elevate public safety as an election issue.
The president has criticized Democratic governors and mayors who he argues have not done enough to crack down when protests turn violent, and has called on them to allow the deployment of National Guard in their cities.
On Saturday, a man affiliated with a right-wing group was shot and killed as supporters of the president staged a caravan through downtown Portland – where nightly protests have occurred since Floyd’s death – and clashed with demonstrators.
Federal law enforcement personnel were deployed in Portland, Oregon, last month to try to suppress protests there, but Democratic state and city officials say the agents only heightened violence in the city’s streets and demanded they leave.
Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary of the Homeland Security department, said Monday on Fox News that the agency’s personnel are ready “to move on a moment’s notice.”
Cuccinelli said that an “augmented number” of federal agents remain in Portland.
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