President Donald Trump told reporters on Monday that he has not spoken to the family of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was shot by a white police officer which later sparked protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and across the country.
“I spoke with the pastor, wonderful man, the family’s pastor, and I thought it would be better not to do anything where there are lawyers involved. They wanted me to speak but they wanted to have lawyers involved and I thought that was inappropriate so I didn’t do that,” Trump said at Monday’s White House briefing.
He added, “I may, at some point…but I just gave my best regards. But again, I spoke with the pastor.”
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However, Jacob Blake Sr. and Blake’s family attorney Benjamin Crump told CNN in an appearance on Monday that the family does not have a designated pastor and their attorneys represent the family. Crump said Jacob Blake’s mother tried to set up a call with her pastor and the president but it never materialized. He noted when President Barack Obama talked with Travyon Martin’s family, he was also on the phone as the family’s lawyer.
“First of all, I am not going to play politics, this is my son’s life we are talking about,” Blake Sr. said. “Second of all, we don’t have a family pastor.”
He added, “I don’t know who he talked to. Furthermore, I don’t care who he talked to. If he didn’t talk to Benjamin Crump…man, it’s nothing to talk about.”
Trump is expected to travel to the city, whose Democratic leadership the president has routinely criticized for the unrest in the city following Blake’s shooting.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News earlier Monday that the president plans to meet with law enforcement while in Kenosha, but has no immediate plans to meet with the family.
Trump also refused to condemn the actions of his supporters in Portland, Oregon, after they violently clashed with protesters demonstrating against police brutality. He also refused to denounce the actions of Klye Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old Trump supporter who is charged with fatally shooting two protesters and injuring another during unrest in Kenosha.
“That was an interesting situation, you saw the same tape as I saw, and he was trying to get away from them, I guess looks like, and he fell and then they very violently attacked him and it was something that we’re looking it right now and it’s under investigation,” Trump said. “But I guess he was in very big trouble, he probably would have been killed, but it’s under investigation,” he said, referring to a video that captured some moments of the confrontation between Rittenhouse and protesters. At one point in a video, Rittenhouse can be heard saying, “I just killed somebody,” according to a complaint filed by the Kenosha County district attorney.
Trump’s Democratic opponent Joe Biden took note of the president’s answer, issuing a statement saying “Tonight, the President declined to rebuke violence. He wouldn’t even repudiate one of his supporters who is charged with murder because of his attacks on others. He is too weak, too scared of the hatred he has stirred to put an end to it. So once again, I urge the President to join me in saying that while peaceful protest is a right — a necessity — violence is wrong, period. No matter who does it, no matter what political affiliation they have. Period. If Donald Trump can’t say that, then he is unfit to be President, and his preference for more violence — not less — is clear.”
Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian, a Democrat, told reporters on Monday that he generally welcomes a presidential visit, but “The timing on this, we felt, was not good.”