WH On Trump’s Police Abuse ‘Joke’: ‘He Wants To Empower Our Law Enforcement’

Evan Vucci/AP

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders maintained Tuesday that President Donald Trump was just joking when he endorsed police abuse in a speech to law enforcement officers lsat week. But she added in response to further questions about the speech that “he wants to empower our law enforcement to be able to do their job.”

In a speech Friday to an audience of law enforcement officers in Long Island, Trump celebrated the “rough” treatment of suspected members of the MS13 gang and others, and suggested that the officers not protect the heads of handcuffed people as they lower them into squad cars.

Sanders said Monday that the President was joking — despite the many police departments nationwide that distanced themselves from the remarks. The acting DEA administrator wrote to agency employees Saturday disavowing the speech, in which he said Trump “condoned police misconduct,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Was he making a joke about police brutality?” one reporter asked Sanders at a press briefing Tuesday.

“Not at all,” Sanders replied. “I think you guys are jumping and trying to make something out of nothing. He was simply making a comment, making a joke, and it was nothing more than that.”

“What’s so funny” many reporters asked at once. Another reporter brought up the DEA memo.

“It wasn’t a directive, it was a joke, there’s a very big difference,” Sanders said of Trump’s comments.

Later, American Urban Radio Networks’ April Ryan asked if the President would apologize for the remark, “and what does he view as reasonable when he’s not joking, when it comes to use of force from police?”

“I’d have to ask on that specific question,” Sanders said.

“But do you think the President is remorseful for what he said, because of the outcry from Friday?” Ryan asked.

“I think the President supports our law enforcement, and he supports the protection of the citizens of this country, and he wants to empower our law enforcement to be able to do their job,” Sanders replied. “I don’t think there’s anything beyond that.”

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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