Aug 31, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump declines to condemn supporter accused of murder: "He was trying to get away"

President Trump declined at a press conference Monday to condemn Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old supporter of his charged with murder over the shooting deaths of two people during protests in Kenosha last week.

What he's saying: "That was an interesting situation. You saw the same tape that I saw it. He was trying to get away from them, it looks like it. He fell and then they very violently attacked him. It was something that we're looking at right now and it's under investigation. But I guess he was in very big trouble, he probably would have been killed."

The backdrop: Rittenhouse is accused of traveling to Kenosha from his home in Antioch, Illinois, to protect local businesses from violent protests that erupted in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

  • Video footage from the night shows Rittenhouse, armed with semi-automatic rifle, turning and firing on two separate occasions at groups of people who were chasing him. He fell down on the second occasion while running away, after having already shot and killed the first person.
  • Rittenhouse has been charged on six counts, including first degree reckless homicide and first degree intentional homicide.
  • Asked whether he believes armed private citizens should be responding to protests, Trump said he thinks "everything should be taken care of by law enforcement." He then pivoted to defending police and attacking "this horrible left-wing ideology that is permeating our country."

The big picture: Trump spent much of the press briefing attacking Joe Biden for his response to violent protests. Biden has issued several statements condemning the violence and spoke out against it in a major speech in Pittsburgh on Monday, but Trump demanded that his opponent specifically call out "left-wing violence" like antifa.

  • Asked whether he would condemn his own supporters who were filmed firing paintballs at protesters in Portland this weekend, Trump defended them as "peaceful" and claimed that the paintballs were a "defensive mechanism."
  • He then pointed out that one of the men who had traveled to Portland for a pro-Trump rally had been shot and killed, calling it "disgraceful" and falsely claiming to a CNN reporter that it was "your supporters" who shot him. The investigation in that case is ongoing and no charges have been brought.
Go deeper