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Trump praises right-wing supporters, rails against protesters after unrest in Portland

Portland police are investigating the shooting death of a man in clashes between demonstrators at a pro-Trump vehicle rally and counterprotesters.
Image: President Trump Holds Campaign Rally In New Hampshire
President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Londonderry, N.H., on Friday.Spencer Platt / Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Sunday praised a pro-Trump caravan of activists whose presence appeared to contribute to violent clashes Saturday in Portland, Oregon.

The day after a man was shot and killed in confrontations between Black Lives Matter protesters and Trump supporters in Portland, he assailed only the anti-racism demonstrators.

In a tweet, Trump shared a video of the pro-Trump caravan driving into Portland and labeled its members "GREAT PATRIOTS!" In another tweet, he referred to protesters in Washington, D.C., as "Disgraceful Anarchists" and said, "We are watching them closely."

"The big backlash going on in Portland cannot be unexpected after 95 days of watching and incompetent Mayor admit that he has no idea what he is doing," Trump said in one tweet. "The people of Portland won't put up with no safety any longer. The Mayor is a FOOL. Bring in the National Guard!"

Saturday's clashes came days after Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, was accused of having opened fire Tuesday during a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, killing two people. Demonstrators in Kenosha were protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, which was captured on video.

Rittenhouse was arrested and charged with two counts of homicide, among other charges, in connection with the shooting at the protest. On Sunday, Trump liked a post promoting a thread from a Twitter user explaining why "Kyle Rittenhouse is a good example of why I decided to vote for Trump."

The White House said Saturday that Trump would visit Kenosha on Tuesday. On Sunday, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian, both Democrats, asked him not to come. In a letter, Evers said Trump's presence in the city would only "hinder our healing."

But White House spokesman Judd Deere said the president was still planning to visit.

"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."

There is no meeting scheduled between Trump and Blake's family.

Later Sunday, Trump tweeted, "The only way you will stop the violence in the high crime Democrat run cities is through strength!"

Trump's tweets, of which there were dozens, came as Portland police investigated the shooting death of a man in clashes between those who participated in a pro-Trump vehicle rally and counterprotesters. A picture from the scene published by Getty Images showed the victim wearing a hat with a Patriot Prayer logo. The Portland-area group, which has previously clashed with protesters, is described as far right by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

It was not immediately clear whether the shooting was connected to the protests.

Video showed protesters hurling projectiles like water bottles at the Trump caravan. Trump supporters sprayed protesters with paintballs and what appeared to be pepper spray. Multiple fights between the groups were seen breaking out through the night. Video also showed lifted four-wheel-drive trucks driving through downtown Portland intersections filled with protesters.

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In a lengthy statement Sunday afternoon, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden condemned violence in Portland as "unacceptable" but called on Trump to stop "fanning the flames of hate and division in our society and using the politics of fear to whip up his supporters."

"As a country, we must condemn the incitement of hate and resentment that led to this deadly clash," Biden said, adding: "What does President Trump think will happen when he continues to insist on fanning the flames of hate and division in our society and using the politics of fear to whip up his supporters? He is recklessly encouraging violence.

"The job of a president is to lower the temperature," Biden added. "And all of us are less safe because Donald Trump can't do the job of the American president."

Speaking Sunday on NBC News' "Meet the Press," White House chief of staff Mark Meadows pinned violent episodes on "Democrat cities" — continuing a theme from the Republican National Convention, which wrapped last week. Repeatedly, convention speakers claimed that people "would not be safe in Joe Biden's America."

"You know, you want to talk about Donald Trump's America. Most of Donald Trump's America is peaceful," Meadows said. "It is a Democrat-led city in Portland that we're talking about this morning who just yesterday denied help once again from the federal government."

The Trump campaign released a statement Sunday parroting the president's tweet and lamenting what it described as "left-wing mob violence."

"It's obvious that law-abiding Americans will be on their own if Biden and his allies are elected in November," communications director Tim Murtaugh said. "You won't be safe in Joe Biden's America."

Ahead of Trump's convention speech last week, Biden accused Trump of "rooting for more violence, not less," because he sees it as a political benefit. Earlier, departing White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told Fox News, "The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who's best on public safety."

Asked about Conway's remark on "Fox News Sunday," Lara Trump, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign who is the president's daughter-in-law, said recent violence "certainly paints a very clear picture" that might make some potential Biden voters think twice.

In an interview on ABC News' "This Week," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said, "We are not safe in Donald Trump's America."

"This isn't just happening in one place. It's happening all over the country. It is happening under Donald Trump's watch," Klobuchar said, adding that increases in crime were coupled with "over 180,000 people that died from this coronavirus."

Asked about the violence in an interview on "This Week," acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said the department is "happy to provide resources to bring this violence to an end, violence that, again, across the ideological spectrum, left or right, the violence needs to end."

In his tweets, Trump repeatedly assailed Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat whom the president blamed for violent outbreaks.

"Tone down the language, but TRUE!" Trump tweeted in response to a Twitter user who compared Wheeler to a "useless f------ idiot."

Addressing Trump directly at a news conference Sunday afternoon, Wheeler said: "President Trump, you bring no peace, you bring no respect to our democracy."

"Do you seriously wonder, Mr. President, why this is the first time in decades that America has seen this level of violence?" Wheeler said. "It's you who have created the hate and division."

Portland has been a focus of Trump's response to nationwide protests beginning in late May after the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis police custody. The Trump administration deployed federal law enforcement to Minneapolis in July to guard federal property.

Wheeler and other Democratic leaders in Oregon have condemned the Trump administration's response, saying it has inflamed tensions.

Democrats condemned the violence Sunday, pointing to Trump as the force behind such behavior. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., said on "Meet the Press" that those causing the violence "are not peaceful protesters," adding that Trump is doing nothing to address the broader law enforcement issues.

"It's not about law enforcement or protesters. It's about making sure that police are held accountable when they violate people's constitutional rights, when they shoot unarmed Black people," said Richmond, a co-chair of the Biden campaign. "And if the president could convene that conversation, then I think that we would be in a better space. And so he keeps talking about what Biden's America would look like. Well, this is Trump's America."