President Donald Trump has seen abusive law enforcement before—stared it in the face, called it by its name, denounced it.
He did not, to be sure, see the killing of George Floyd—the latest African American man to be killed by a police officer—as a reason to condemn abusive policing, although video of Floyd’s death prompted millions of Americans to recoil in horror and sparked outrage, protest, and violence nationwide. The president has been mostly quiet on that subject, and when he has spoken, he has done so in the passive voice, decrying it as a “grave tragedy” and a “terrible thing.” Then he has tended to change the subject quickly to the unrest in response to Floyd’s death.
Nor did he find the indefensible police reaction to many of the protests—a reaction that has been needlessly violent and confrontational, and that has often targeted bystanders and reporters—a reason to condemn abusive policing.
About such police tactics, in fact, Trump seems almost gleeful. “LAW & ORDER!” he tweeted yesterday. He complained that “Liberal Governors and Mayors must get MUCH tougher or the Federal Government will step in and do what has to be done” in another tweet. And another time: “STRENGTH!” In a call with governors today, he called protesters “scum” and demanded that state law enforcement “dominate” people out in the streets. And, of course, there’s his famous “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”—a statement so incendiary that it forced Twitter to, for the first time ever, flag the president’s tweet for “glorifying violence.”
No, for Trump this past week, only one victim of abusive law enforcement was worth talking about: his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump actually does not mind police misconduct, even violence, as a general matter. [Continue reading…]