Trump administration officials on Thursday cast the national unrest spurred by the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake as a failure on the part of Democrats and a boon to the electoral prospects for President Donald Trump.
Top Trump advisers argued rioting that has sprung up adjacent to peaceful protests over racial injustice would crystalize voters behind Trump’s “law and order” agenda. Democrats, the president’s team contested, have failed for decades to address the issues that have roiled the country all summer.
“We’re offering solutions with policy,” senior White House adviser Jared Kushner said Thursday. “The other side’s doing a lot of complaining.”
Already a focal point for much of the summer, unrest over racial injustice in the U.S. generally and specifically in policing crested again this week after Blake, a Black man, was shot seven times in the back by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wis. Blake survived the shooting but remains hospitalized in Milwaukee. Family members have said he is paralyzed from the waist down.
Protests quickly erupted in Kenosha and around the country, with some turning violent. A white 17-year-old from nearby Antioch, Ill., was arrested Wednesday for shooting three protesters in Kenosha Tuesday night, two of whom died.
Blake’s shooting prompted players in the NBA to refuse to take the court for playoff games Wednesday night. Multiple games in Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer were similarly postponed.
Kushner, in an interview with POLITICO Playbook authors Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer, said “peaceful protest has a place and it has importance” but he also accused Democrats of failing to address issues of racial injustice despite their political control of many major cities.
“What we need to do right now is we take the anger that people have and we have to move from slogans to constructive solutions,” Kushner said.
Throughout the Republican National Convention this week, speakers used the president’s “law and order” message as a major selling point. Everyday Americans, they’ve argued, are turned off by looting and rioting that has occurred adjacent to peaceful protesters. Democrats, GOP convention speakers have said, are unwilling to address the problem.
“The more chaos and anarchy and violence reign, the better it is for who is the clear choice for who’s best on public safety and law and order,” Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said on “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning.
Democratic candidate Joe Biden issued a filmed statement Wednesday urging for a peaceful end to racist police brutality. While Democrats have denounced Trump’s scorched-earth rhetoric on bringing order to cities, Biden conceded in his statement that “burning down communities is not protest.”
Kushner, in his Thursday morning interview, was particularly dismissive of NBA players’ decision to sit out Wednesday night’s games, remarking that “they have the luxury of taking the night off from work” while “most Americans don’t have the financial luxury to do that.”
“I think it’s nice they’re standing up for the issue, but I’d like to see them start moving to concrete solutions that are productive,” he said.
It was a sentiment reflected by Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, earlier Thursday. Speaking with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota, Short brushed the NBA protest off as “absurd” and “silly” and said he did not expect the White House would have any kind of formal response to it.
“If they want to protest, I don’t think we care,” he said.
Asked about prominent NBA players, such as Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, who have put significant resources into the Black community and social justice issues, Kushner said the White House was eager to cooperate on such initiatives. Kushner added that he would reach out to James on Thursday.
President Donald Trump, Kushner contended, has had a track record of fighting racial injustice by pushing for educational and criminal justice reform and standing with the police.
Protesters, though, have hurled criticism at Trump and his administration, denouncing the president for his frequent use of racist rhetoric. The president’s near-unequivocal support for law enforcement, too, has drawn the ire of protesters who have called for the defunding, and in some cases abolition, of police departments.
Trump has responded to protests all summer with calls for “law and order” and a push for stepped-up law enforcement presence in cities where demonstrations have turned violent, including Chicago, Portland, Ore., and Kenosha. In Washington, where the federal government wields far more authority than it does elsewhere, federal officers infamously used tear gas and flash-bang grenades to clear peaceful protesters from a park near the White House so that the president could cross it to pose for photos with a Bible outside a church.