Portman: Trump should shift 'tone' amid criticism over response to protests

Portman: Trump should shift 'tone' amid criticism over response to protests
© Greg Nash

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanJD Vance raises more than million in second fundraising quarter for Ohio Senate bid Cleveland Plain Dealer urges Portman to reconsider retirement Johnson, Thune signal GOP's rising confidence MORE (R-Ohio) on Thursday said President TrumpDonald TrumpWendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Senate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Former acting Defense secretary under Trump met with Jan. 6 committee: report MORE needs to change the tone of his response to the wave of social protest that has swept the country after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

Portman praised Trump’s formal remarks on Floyd's death and the peaceful protests that followed, saying the president rightly condemned violence.

But Portman added that when the president strays from prepared remarks, problems start to happen.

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“I think the president has done a pretty good job on his prepared remarks because he has condemned what happened,” Portman told reporters. “He has applauded the peaceful demonstrations, his prepared remarks, and he has condemned the violence.

“But [it’s] his tone and words kind of in between those more formal presentations that have not unified people,” he said.

Asked whether the president should shift his tone, he said, “Yeah, I do.” 

“I think he’s probably getting that message from a lot of people,” he added.

But Portman said he didn’t agree with former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that Trump is intentionally trying to divide the nation.

“I don’t agree with Mattis that it’s all divisive because it’s not. If you listen to his actual words on his prepared remarks including his speech that he gave two days ago, he was saying in my view the right things,” he said. “It’s more about tone.”

Portman said he respects Mattis and called himself a “Mattis man.”

Portman earlier in the day said he hadn’t closely read Mattis’s entire statement but that he was familiar with them from reading media reports.  

The Ohio senator added that he does not support using the Insurrection Act to deploy regular troops to quell social unrest.

“I think the National Guard and obviously local law enforcement is the right way to go,” he said. “That’s what we’ve done in Ohio. It’s worked. We’re now having more peaceful demonstrations, which is good. They’re trained for it.

“Our active-duty military are not trained for these kind of domestic missions,” he added.