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Trump calls for retribution against protesters toppling statues

Demonstrators, police face off again in D.C.
Demonstrators, police face off again in D.C. 02:06

President Trump is applauding the arrests of "hundreds of people" in the wake of the toppling of statues and monuments nationwide during protests against racial injustice following the George Floyd killing. "I mean, you're also talking about statues of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln — they'd like to get Jesus, you know that, right? They said we want to get Jesus —" Mr. Trump told Sean Hannity at a Fox News town hall in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Thursday night.

After calling Chicago "worse than Afghanistan," Mr. Trump revived an argument he made in 2018 for "stop and frisk." The practice of police temporarily detaining, questioning, and searching civilians on the street for possible contraband proved controversial, with critics pointing to data showing it disproportionately targeted people of color before it was halted in New York City.

"[Former Mayor Mike] Bloomberg blew it because he went crazy with it and ultimately took away a lot of rights and a lot of — it wasn't a good job he did," Mr. Trump said. "But [former Mayor and current Trump lawyer] Rudy Giuliani started 'stop and frisk,' and he did a great. It was a great thing he did for New York."

Conflating demonstrators with "vandals," "agitators," and terrorists," the president called for retribution. "Every night, we're going to get tougher and tougher. And at some point, there's going to be retribution because there has to be," the president said.

Prodded by an audience member about protesters in Madison, Wisconsin who toppled two statues and attacked a state senator Tuesday, Mr. Trump said, "You happen to have a Democrat governor right now. If you would have had (former) Governor (Scott) Walker (a Republican), that wouldn't have happened." He later added that a sitting state senator "they beat up was a Democrat who happened to be gay. And he was probably out there rooting them on or something because Democrats think it's wonderful that they're destroying our country."

Mr. Trump doubled down on his claim that the U.S. has more COVID-19 cases because it does more testing, then said he "jokingly" or "sarcastically" suggested the nation do fewer tests.

"So, we have more cases because we do the greatest testing. If we didn't do testing, we'd have no cases," Mr. Trump told Hannity, later adding, "Sometimes I jokingly say or sarcastically say if we didn't do tests, we'd look great, but you know what? It's not the right thing to do." He also repeated a prediction that the U.S. would develop a vaccine by the "end of the year."

Asked by a Wisconsin voter about mail-in ballots, Mr. Trump "OK'd" absentee voting – "like I'm at the White House and I have to vote in Florida" – but condemned mail-in voting in California, suggesting without citing evidence that China could try to tamper with the U.S. election by printing "millions of ballots."

"Especially China," Mr. Trump stated. "Are they going to print millions of ballots using the exact same paper? Using the exact same machines? And are they going to print ballots and then hand them in? And then all of a sudden — it's the biggest risk we have."

However, comments like that, made by both the president and Attorney General Bill Barr, have baffled election officials and experts who say complicated and detailed safeguards in place are expressly designed to detect and prevent such interference. 

The president agreed to "do any amount of debates," with Joe Biden, denying reports that his team aims to add more match-ups to the calendar. "I will do any amount of debates. You understand what I mean? If I say I want to do 10 debates, they say, 'Oh, he's afraid, he's afraid he's gonna lose.'" The president shook his head. "No. No. What I want to do is — I'll do the three, and I'll do any amount they want. It doesn't make any difference to me."

Biden's campaign has said he'll participate only in the three debates currently scheduled by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Taking aim at his political opponent, Mr. Trump claimed Biden struggles to speak. "I don't want to be nice or un-nice, OK? But, I mean, the man can't speak, and he's going to be your president because some people don't love me maybe, and you know, all I'm doing is doing my job."

Mr. Trump said that while he doesn't think Biden "is a radical left," the party will take him over. "Look at what happened. Eliot Engel was a pretty mainline guy. He lost by like 37 points or something—" the president Trump said in a reference to a longtime New York congressman who defeated in a primary Tuesday.

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