One person was killed in Portland, Oregon on Saturday after supporters of President Donald Trump lead a caravan into the city — and instead of trying to deescalate tensions, Trump spent Sunday on Twitter threatening to send in the National Guard.
Among a slew of other missives, the president retweeted a message calling for Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler to resign and tiptoed right up to the edge of endorsing violence, saying a video showing his supporters unleashing paintballs and pepper spray on Portland residents — and at least one journalist — reflected that escalating unrest “cannot be unexpected … The people of Portland won’t put up with no safety any longer.”
The big backlash going on in Portland cannot be unexpected after 95 days of watching and incompetent Mayor admit that he has no idea what he is doing. The people of Portland won’t put up with no safety any longer.The Mayor is a FOOL. Bring in the National Guard! https://t.co/bM6ypak94t
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2020
Notably absent from his tweets: Any kind of condemnation of violence on the part of his supporters, who he referred to as “GREAT PATRIOTS,” and any call for peace or deescalation.
The tweets — Trump’s initial response to news of the shooting ahead of a visit to his golf course in Virginia — reflect an extraordinary abdication of responsibility on the part of the president after the second spate of deadly violence at a protest in less than a week.
In a number of his tweets and retweets Sunday, Trump dismissed arguments that he is responsible for ending violence at protests, claiming instead that deadly incidents are the fault of Democratic mayors and governors. For example, the president amplified a tweet accusing Democrats of “being slow and hesitant to condemn violence and disorder” and also accused Wheeler and the Portland police of having “blood on their hands.”
“Disgraceful Anarchists,” he wrote in reply to a video of Portland protesters. “We are watching them closely, but stupidly protected by the Radical Left Dems!”
And it is a message that has been articulated by a number of Trump surrogates in recent days — blaming Democrats for violence and unrest was a recurring theme at the Republican National Convention last week, and again On Meet the Press Sunday morning, where White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows claimed that while Trump “does govern and lead the entire country … it’s not Donald Trump that is saying, ‘Let’s look the other way.’ It’s the mayor of Portland.”
WATCH: @MarkMeadows says “Donald Trump’s America is peaceful” after deadly shootings in Kenosha and Portland. #MTP @chucktodd: “You’re saying these are all Democratic cities … does the president not believe he has responsibility of governing and leading the entire country?” pic.twitter.com/5WRA7AzV53
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) August 30, 2020
Meadows’s claim about Wheeler isn’t accurate. In a letter to Trump Friday, the Portland mayor condemned violence in no uncertain terms, writing that “there is no place for looting, arson, or vandalism in our city. There is no room here for racist violence or those who wish to bring their ideology of hate into our community.”
But that won’t matter for Trump’s purposes: With an election looming, Trump and his allies appear poised to make ongoing protests — and rising violence — a central focus of his reelection campaign.
Though shocking by any measure, Trump’s response Sunday isn’t that surprising. The president and his supporters have been forthright about their view on violence in the streets, with some, like senior adviser to the president Kellyanne Conway openly stating they believe the violence helps them politically — and that they’re not interested in calming things down.