By: Caitlin Oprysko – politico.com = June 16, 2020
Although he was ostensibly in the Rose Garden to discuss police reform, Trump delivered an emphatic defense of law enforcement as a whole, rejecting complaints of systemic racism in policing and contending that only a “very tiny” percentage of police are so-called bad apples. The text of the executive order itself contains no mention of the words “racism” or “bias,” concepts that reform advocates assert are ingrained in law enforcement.
For the signing ceremony itself, Trump surrounded himself onstage with sheriffs and other law enforcement representatives. Just one of the several law enforcement representatives onstage with the president was black.
“Americans want law and order, and they demand law and order. They may not say it, they may not be talking about it, but that’s what they want,” he told the audience. “Some of them don’t know that that’s what they want but that’s what they want.”
The president also lobbed political attacks, denouncing “radical and dangerous efforts” by some on the left to “dismantle and dissolve our police departments, especially now when we’ve achieved the lowest recorded crime rates in American history.”
“We have to break old patterns of failure,” he said later, contending that “many of the same politicians now presenting themselves as the solution are the same ones that have failed for decades on schools, jobs, justice and crime.”
“They’re all often unfortunately the same politicians running the cities and states where help is most needed,” he argued.
He then accused two such politicians by name.
“President Obama and Vice President Biden never even tried to fix this during their eight-year period. The reason they didn’t try is because they had no idea how to do it,” Trump claimed without noting that his administration had overturned several initiatives that were the result of an Obama administration task force on police reform.
The end of Trump’s speech morphed into a version of his campaign speech, touting his administration’s accomplishments to pass criminal justice reform legislation and secure funding for historically black colleges and universities. It also touched on the stock market and the coronavirus pandemic, with Trump promising a vaccine and therapeutics to address the global pandemic by year’s end, and separately making the eyebrow-raising suggestion that school choice “is the civil rights statement of the year, of the decade, and probably beyond.”
He eventually pivoted back to the subject of police reform before signing the executive order.
“To go forward, we must seek cooperation, not confrontation. We must build upon our heritage, not tear it down,” he told the audience. “We must cherish the principles of America’s founding as we strive to deliver safe, beautiful, elegant justice and liberty for all.”
Marianne Levine and Burgess Everett contributed to this report.
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