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Trump’s Tuesday Kenosha visit: Jumping into a tense situation following Jacob Blake shooting

In Kenosha, he will “survey” area hit by riots. He will tour an emergency operation center and “participate” in a “roundtable on Wisconsin Community safety.”

A police officer keeps watch as people are arrested after the start of a citywide curfew outside of the Kenosha County Courthouse on Aug. 25, 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Protests in the city followed the shooting of Jacob Blake.
A police officer keeps watch as people are arrested after the start of a citywide curfew outside of the Kenosha County Courthouse on Aug. 25, 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Protests in the city followed the shooting of Jacob Blake.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

President Donald Trump condemned acts of violence in Democratic-run cities such as Chicago and Kenosha, a city he visits Tuesday, carving out an exception for Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois youth accused of using the rifle he was carrying to shoot two protesters to death while wounding a third when he got caught up in the fray.

A few hours before Trump spoke at the White House on Monday, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden denounced Trump for “stoking violence in our cities” while asking voters to look at him and decide for themselves if they see “a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters.”

Biden is trying to deny Trump sole ownership of a law and order message. “Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting — it’s lawlessness — plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted,” he said.

Biden’s speech in Pittsburgh was his strongest pushback yet to an oft-thrown Trump punch, that voters won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America. “The violence we’re seeing,” Biden said, is in “Donald Trump’s America.”

Trump lands at the airport in Waukegan, not far from the Illinois/Wisconsin border, around noon Tuesday. He will “survey” Kenosha areas impacted by the riots. He will tour an emergency operation center and “participate” in a “roundtable on Wisconsin community safety.” He’s back at the Waukegan airport by 2:50 p.m.

When Trump arrives in Kenosha it will be 63 days before the presidential election. Wisconsin is a key swing state.

As I write this, I don’t know whether Trump will use his visit with local law enforcement officers and a tour of damages from the Kenosha riots to try to address what sparked the protests — the shooting of the Evanston-raised Jacob Blake, a Black man, multiple times in the back by a white Kenosha policeman.

What I do know is Trump is jumping into a tense situation.

On Monday night, the iPhones of Illinois drivers near the Wisconsin border were buzzing with scary “civil unrest” emergency warnings about Kenosha County from FEMA’s emergency alert system, noting the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew.

Another message popping was labeled a “Kenosha Business Alert” with an ominous request: “Please turn off fuel pumps during the 8/31/20- Emergency Curfew Areas East of I-94.”

Also noting:

On Rittenhouse: The 17-year-old from Antioch is being held in a juvenile detention facility in Vernon Hills ahead of a Sept. 25 hearing over whether he can be sent to Wisconsin to face criminal charges. Trump seemed to defend him.

His attorney, John Pierce, said Rittenhouse was in Kenosha working as a lifeguard when he was asked to assist a local business owner who already suffered losses from the rioters. He said Rittenhouse later got caught in a mob and was attacked. He shot in self-defense. He was carrying an AR-15 rifle. Wisconsin permits the open carry of loaded weapons.

Trump was asked, “Are you going to condemn the actions of vigilantes like Kyle Rittenhouse” and he replied, “We’re looking at all of it. And that was an interesting situation.

“...And he was trying to get away from them, I guess; it looks like. And he fell, and then they very violently attacked him. And 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 would have been — I — he probably would have been killed.”

The Blake Family: Trump as of Monday had no plans to meet with the Blake family because, he said, they wanted to have “lawyers involved.” Trump said he spoke with 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. But I did speak with the pastor of the family, who is a fine man, a wonderful man. And I think we had a great talk.”

Chicago Factcheck: Trump made a grandiose claim Monday while bashing Chicago and other cities: Because of extra federal help he sent to the city, in “the last month alone, we cut the murder rate in Chicago in half.” His own Justice Department does not support that claim.

On July 22, Trump sent about 200 federal law enforcement agents to Chicago as part of “Operation Legend.” In an Aug. 19 update on Chicago from Attorney General William Barr, he detailed the federal criminal charges against defendants: 34 firearms offenses; 26 narcotic related; one possession of machine gun; two dealing with illegal firearms sales; and one bank fraud charge.