City leaders, Democratic lawmakers urge Trump to tamp down rhetoric as protests rage across US
City leaders and Democratic lawmakers urged President Trump on Sunday to tamp down his rhetoric regarding how authorities should respond to protests as demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd raged across the country.
Democrats, and a few Republicans, condemned Trump over his tweets, a few of which dredged up memories of the violent response to the civil rights movement, saying his language fanned the flames and was unhelpful in deescalating the situation.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D), whose city has seen several nights of protests, said Trump is making the situation worse and should “just stop talking.”
“This is like Charlottesville all over again,” Bottoms told CNN, referencing the deadly 2017 white supremacist rally and counterprotest in Virginia after which Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides.”
“He speaks and he makes it worse,” she added. “There are times when you should just be quiet, and I wish that he would just be quiet.”
If Trump can’t stay silent, she said, “if there’s somebody of good sense and good conscience in the White House, put him in front of a teleprompter and pray that he reads it and at least says the right things.”
Protests exploded across the country last week after the death of Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis police custody. A widely shared video, shot by a bystander, showed a police officer with a knee on Floyd’s neck while Floyd says he can’t breathe.
In the days since, Trump has tweeted that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” later telling reporters he wasn’t aware of the origins of the phrase, which is attributed to Miami Police Chief Walter Headley in 1967 during the civil rights movement. In another tweet, the president seemed to threaten protesters outside the White House with “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons.”
Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar (D) said Trump is “glorifying violence” in his tweets about protests and deserves “the highest sort of condemnation.”
“This president has failed in really understanding the kind of pain and anguish many of his citizens are feeling,” she told ABC’s “This Week.” “When you have a president who really is glorifying violence, was talking about the kind of vicious dogs and weapons that could be unleashed on citizens, it is quite appalling and disturbing.”
“We condemn other nations when their presidents make those kinds of statements when there is unrest in their countries, and we have to condemn our president at the highest sort of condemnation,” she added.
Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said Trump has “a responsibility to help calm the nation.”
“He can start by not sending divisive tweets that are meant to hearken to the segregationist past of our country,” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” referring to Trump’s tweet threatening demonstrators outside the White House with “vicious dogs.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Sunday criticized Trump’s response and said presidents should not “fuel the flame.”
She said on ABC’s “This Week” that past presidents of both parties have been a “unifying force” in the countries and brought “dignity to the office.”
“They have seen their responsibility to be the president of the United States, to unify our country and not to fuel the flame,” she said, adding that Trump’s tweets act as “bait” to distract from the issues at the root of the protests.
Asked about Trump’s tweet that “looting leads to shooting,” Pelosi responded that she “isn’t paying too much attention to what the president says.”
“I’m talking about the injustice, the knee in the neck,” she said.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) similarly said that Trump doesn’t “deserve a response” from him.
“He doesn’t deserve my attention or my emotion. Our people do,” Booker said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Donald Trump has, no longer has, the capacity to break my heart, to surprise me. But I say this all the time. If America, though, as a whole, if America hasn’t broken your heart, you don’t love her enough.”
Even some Republicans voiced concern for how Trump was responding to the protests.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) suggested Trump’s comments are escalating tensions, which he said is the opposite message the White House should be sending.
“That’s not helpful, it’s not lowering the temperature,” he said on CNN. “It’s sort of continuing to escalate the rhetoric. I think it’s just the opposite of the message that should have been coming out of the White House.”
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) similarly said Trump’s tweets are “not constructive.”
“Those are not constructive tweets, without any question,” Scott said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Scott added that he had spoken to Trump in private and told him that “it helps us when you focus on the death, the unjustified, in my opinion, the criminal death of George Floyd.”
White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien, however, defended Trump’s tweets on Sunday.
He said Trump wants to “de-escalate the violence.”
O’Brien said on ABC that the Trump administration is “with the peaceful protesters who are demanding answers” about Floyd’s death.
“I think what he said about those tweets is he wants to de-escalate violence and he doesn’t want looting,” O’Brien added.