On the eve of his visit to Kenosha, President Trump declined to condemn the actions of a 17-year-old who shot three protesters, killing two of them.
Rival Joe Biden said if Trump can’t denounce violence regardless of political affiliation, he is unfit for the presidency.
The attorney for Kyle Rittenhouse, of Antioch, Ill., has already raised a self defense claim to the two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and other charges his client faces.
Appearing at the White House late yesterday, Trump said the incident was “something we’re looking at,” though he argued Rittenhouse was trying to get away from protesters when he fell and they “violently attacked him.”
“I guess he was in very big trouble. He probably would’ve been killed,” Trump said.
According to the criminal complaint, the first person Rittenhouse shot was unarmed while pursuing him across a parking lot before he was killed. A witness said the man was trying to grab the barrel of Rittenhouse’s gun when he was shot. The second person shot went at Rittenhouse in an apparent attempt to disarm him. The third person, who survived, was armed but had his hands in the air when he was shot.
Pressed to condemn the actions and asked if he believes armed individuals should take the law into their own hands, Trump said he wanted to see law enforcement “take care of everything.”
Biden said in a statement Trump’s refusal to condemn the violence suggests his preference is for more of it.
“He is too weak, too scared of the hatred he has stirred to put an end to it,” Biden said.
Read the criminal complaint:
Trump said he ignored pleas from the guv and others to cancel today’s visit because “I have to see the people who did such a good job for me.”
Without mentioning him by name, Trump said Gov. Tony Evers “didn’t want the National Guard,” but still gave him credit because “Ultimately, he said yes” and the problem ended.
Responding to a request from locals, Evers ordered up the National Guard early on the morning of Aug. 24. He then doubled the deployment to 250 the next day, when he also initially declined an offer of federal assistance from the White House.
Trump also rebuffed suggestions his visit could stir tensions.
“It could also increase enthusiasm and increase love and respect for our country, and that’s why I’m going,” he said.
Watch video of Trump’s news conference:
Trump said he hasn’t spoken with Blake’s family because they wanted their lawyers involved, and he thought it was inappropriate.
The family’s attorneys issued a statement saying when Trump reached out to the pastor of Jacob Blake’s mom Julia Jackson, the request to speak was referred to the legal team. The lawyers said the White House declined to allow a call if the legal team monitored it.
“If the call had occurred, Ms. Jackson was prepared to ask President Trump to watch the video of Mr. Blake’s shooting and to do what she has asked all of America to do — examine your heart,” the attorneys said.
See the statement from the legal team: