McConnell on Trump’s response to protests: ‘I’m not going to critique other people’s performances’
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday sidestepped a question about President Trump’s response to protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, and didn’t directly weigh in on the treatment of protesters outside the White House on Monday night.
“I’m not going to critique other people’s performances. I can speak for myself, and I just have,” McConnell said when asked if Trump was providing the “right kind of leadership” after Floyd’s death in police custody.
Asked separately if he was “comfortable” with the “scene” outside the White House, McConnell demurred.
“I’ve already told you what I think about last night. I’m relieved that apparently there were few to no injuries last night, apparently little or no looting,” McConnell said.
It’s not the first time McConnell has declined to weigh in on actions taken by Trump or the White House.
When asked Tuesday morning about Trump saying he could deploy the U.S. military to cities, McConnell did not respond. He was also asked last week by reporters in Kentucky about Trump’s tweet warning that the National Guard would shoot protesters who loot stores and destroy property, but he declined to comment.
The National Guard, U.S. Park Police and Secret Service used rubber bullets and tear gas to clear demonstrators from Lafayette Square so that Trump could cross the street to St. John’s Episcopal Church, which had been set on fire by vandals the night before.
The Washington Post reported that Attorney General William Barr personally ordered for the perimeter near the White House to be extended, pushing protesters away from Lafayette Square.
The decision, law enforcement officials told the publication, was made late Sunday or early Monday, but Barr noticed it had not been completed Monday afternoon and ordered law enforcement to broaden the perimeter.
The tactics have sparked fierce backlash from congressional Democrats, who have compared it to actions taken by a dictator, called it an “abuse of power” and warned that it might be unlawful.
Senate Democrats are introducing a resolution on Tuesday to condemn Trump over the treatment of protesters. They are expected to also try to pass the resolution on Tuesday, though it will likely be blocked by Republicans.
Some GOP senators, including Sens. Tim Scott (S.C.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine), have broken with the White House.
But several Senate Republicans have skirted weighing in, telling reporters they had not seen the footage that was widely circulated on TV and social media, or disputing the characterization of actions taken against protesters.
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