WH: Trump Was ‘Making A Joke’ When He Endorsed Police Abuse In Speech

Evan Vucci/AP

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that President Donald Trump was just joking last week when he advocated police abuse during an address focused on gang violence by undocumented immigrants in Long Island.

“When the President made his speech to police officers on Friday, almost within minutes statements came from police chiefs across the country criticizing his remarks that seemed to endorse the use of force by police in certain arrests,” Newsmax’s John Gizzi said Monday during a press briefing. “Was the President joking when he said this or did he check his remarks out with the international association of police chiefs or maybe the attorney general?”

“I believe he was making a joke at the time,” Sanders said, before moving on.

Gizzi appeared to be referencing a passage from Trump’s speech to law enforcement officers last week in Brentwood, New York, which left police departments nationwide cleaning up after the President.

Discussing the gang MS13, Trump celebrated seeing “these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough.”

“I said, please don’t be too nice,” he added.

For many, the comment immediately brought to mind Freddie Gray, who died in the custody of Baltimore Police in 2015.

“When you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over,” Trump continued, mimicking an officer protecting a handcuffed person’s head while lowering them into the back of a squad car. “Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody? Don’t hit their head?”

“I said, you can take the hand away, OK?” he concluded, to laughter and applause.

Police departments nationwide distanced themselves from the remarks.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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