Feb 11, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump declares war on Bloomberg over stop-and-frisk

Photos: Drew Angerer/Getty Images; Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Trump's campaign seized Tuesday on 2015 audio of Mike Bloomberg defending the controversial stop-and-frisk policing tactic that was utilized by New York City during his mayoral tenure.

Why it matters: It's a significant and sustained attack by the Trump camp on a candidate that's gotten the president's attention — if his Twitter feed is any indication — and it comes as the former New York mayor has been gaining ground in national polls in a crowded Democratic field.

What Bloomberg said:

"95% of your murderers — murderers and murder victims —  fit one M.O. You can just take the description, Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities, sixteen to twenty-five. That's true in New York, that's true in virtually every city. ... And that's where the real crime is....
"One of the unintended consequences is people say, 'Oh my God, you are arresting kids for marijuana that are all minorities.' Yes, that's true. Why? Because we put all the cops in minority neighborhoods. Yes, that's true. Why do we do it? Because that's where all the crime is."

The backdrop: Stop-and-frisk is a policing strategy that allows police to detain people they think have been — or will be — involved in a crime in some capacity. It allows the detaining officer to attempt to feel if someone is armed by touching outside their clothing.

  • Bloomberg, who took office in 2002, did not begin the city's stop-and-frisk policy but significantly expanded it, recording over 5 million stops during his three terms, the New York Times reports.
  • During each of Bloomberg's years in office, more than 75% of the people stopped were black or Latino, per ACLU data. A federal judge ultimately ruled the practice unconstitutional in 2013.
  • Despite historically low crime levels in New York City recorded under Bloomberg's tenure, there is no correlation between the use of stop-and-frisk and the city's crime rate, per the Washington Post.
  • He apologized for his support for the tactic in November, saying that he was "focused on saving lives" at the time but "didn't understand ... the full impact that stops were having on the black and Latino communities."

The state of play: Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale led the broadside against the former mayor, asking if Bloomberg News would cover it — a dig at the company's policy that it will not investigate Bloomberg or other 2020 Democrats running for office.

  • That decision led the Trump campaign to announce in December that it was blacklisting Bloomberg News employees from its events.
  • Trump tweeted and then deleted the audio on Tuesday. His now-deleted post called Bloomberg a "TOTAL RACIST."
  • The president still retweeted a picture of him and Bloomberg on the golf course, mocking the mayor's height in the process. That amplified tweet used the hashtag #BloombergIsRacist, which was trending on Twitter.

Reality check: Trump himself has continuously promoted stop-and-frisk, saying in 2018 that it was "meant for problems like Chicago" and on the campaign trail in 2016 that it "worked incredibly well" in New York.

  • While in office, Trump has refused to apologize for calling for the death penalty in 1989 for the Central Park Five, a group of black and Latino men who were wrongfully convicted of rape.

The other side: Bloomberg, who argued the practice did not violate civil rights as recently as a September 2018 interview with the Times, said in a statement that "this issue and my comments about it do not reflect my commitment to criminal justice reform and racial equity."

  • "I inherited the police practice of stop-and-frisk, and as part of our effort to stop gun violence it was overused. By the time I left office, I cut it back by 95%, but I should've done it faster and sooner. I regret that and I have apologized — and I have taken responsibility for taking too long to understand the impact it had on black and Latino communities," he added.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

The anti-Bloomberg barrage begins

He's not even on today's ballot in New Hampshire, but Mike Bloomberg is consuming the attention thanks to resurfaced comments from 2015.

Why it matters: The comments touch on hot buttons in a Democratic primary, and Trump allies seem eager for a post-Biden foil.

Mike Bloomberg endorsed by 3 Congressional Black Caucus members

Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg delivers remarks during a campaign rally in Nashville on Wednesday. Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg won the endorsements of Congressional Black Caucus members Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.), Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands) on Wednesday.

Why it maters: The backing comes a day after 2015 audio resurfaced of the former New York City mayor defending the stop-and-frisk policing policy that mostly targeted black and Latino people before it was ruled unconstitutional in 2013. In the audio, he said "95% of your murderers — murderers and murder victims —  fit one M.O. ... They are male minorities, 16 to 25." Bloomberg apologized for his support of the tactic in November. He expressed his regret again Tuesday.

Go deeper:

Steyer: Bloomberg's 2015 defense of stop-and-frisk is "extremely disturbing"

Tom Steyer. Photo: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer on Tuesday condemned a 2015 audio recording of fellow billionaire Mike Bloomberg's defense of the controversial stop-and-frisk policing tactic used during his time as New York City mayor, calling the practice "extremely disturbing."

Driving the news: President Trump's campaign amplified the Bloomberg audio earlier on Tuesday. Trump tweeted and then deleted the recording, calling Bloomberg a "TOTAL RACIST."