WASHINGTON — After a week that saw the summerlong protests over police treatment of Black Americans intensify, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Sunday that President Donald Trump is “on the side of law enforcement and the rule of law.”
In an interview with “Meet the Press,” Meadows noted that the president has called for an investigation into the shooting of Jacob Blake, the Wisconsin man shot seven times in the back by police last week, arguing that “that’s why we have laws and that’s why we have a justice system.”
When asked repeatedly whether Trump would try to de-escalate tensions among his supporters, some of whom have been accused of provoking violence with protestors, Meadows answered that the president is backing law enforcement and that the federal government is “willing to provide additional assets” to states looking to control unrest.
“The president is on the side of law enforcement and the rule of law and he’s been very consistent in that,” he said.
“The president believes what we need to do is make sure that we have exactly what resources are available for every single city. And if you are having a problem, governors, we want to make sure we can help you with that.”
Pointing to recent protests of Trump’s convention speech in Washington as an example, Meadows said that “the largely peaceful protests that happened on the mall were certainly not something that anyone condemned,” but that he drew a line at “splinters” that came off the main protest and harassed several of those leaving the president's GOP convention speech Thursday night.
Portland and other cities across the country have seen more protests after a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back last week, leading to the unrest in which a 17-year-old — whose social media profiles show a significant number of pro-police postings — was arrested after a shooting that killed two protestors.
Portland specifically has been a hotbed for protests in recent months, and while many have been peaceful, police say some protestors have started fires or tried to destroy property around a federal courthouse.
On Saturday night, one man was shot and killed in Portland amid clashes between protestors supporting Trump and those supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. As of early Sunday morning, it was unclear whether the shooting was related to those protests.
Trump has been repeatedly critical of the mayors of Portland and other cities throughout the protests — during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention last week, Trump criticized the “violence and danger in the streets of many Democrat-run cities” like Portland and said the “problem could easily be fixed if they wanted to” ask for federal help.
And while he’s issued broad denunciations of violence, Trump tweeted during protests in Minnesota after the shooting death of George Floyd by police that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter flagged the tweet on its platform for “glorifying violence.”
Meadows stressed that the federal government has been trying to help states stop violence, but their offer to send in federal resources was turned down both by leaders in Wisconsin and in Portland. He also criticized some local law enforcement for being too lax.
“Most of Donald Trump’s America is peaceful. It is a Democrat-led city in Portland that we are talking about this morning that just yesterday denied help from the federal government,” he said.
Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., the co-chair of former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, took issue with Meadows’ framing in an interview immediately following Meadows' comments.
“When you talked to the chief of staff, Meadows, he said President Trump is on the side of law enforcement. Well, the question becomes: Who is on the side of Justice? Who is on the side of constitutional policing? It’s not about law enforcement or protestors, it’s about making sure that police are held accountable when they violate people’s constitutional rights, when they shoot unarmed Black people,” he said.
“If the president could convene that conversation, then I think that we would be in a better space. He keeps talking about what Biden’s America would look like, this is Trump’s America, he has to own this moment.”