The coronavirus pandemic stole from President Donald Trump his most prized political possession: a booming U.S. economy. Now racial unrest in Minnesota threatens to steal his second-most-prized one: an image of power and stability that he can project to supporters and adversaries alike.
Hours into a spate of destruction and arrests in Minneapolis after the police killing of an unarmed black man, Trump was already threatening to send in the National Guard and warning that “looters” in the city would be shot—employing a phrase popularized by a former Miami police chief famous for “tough-on-crime” policies that targeted citizens of color.
Trump walked back the latter statement a few hours later, saying he only meant that looters could end up shooting people, not that they should be shot. “I’ve heard that phrase for a long time. I don’t know where it came from or where it originated,” he declared later. “I wouldn’t know a thing like that.”