President Donald Trump was planning a visit to Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Monday, Tuesday in what the White House said would be a “unified” visit despite the state governor asking the president and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden to reconsider accused of “igniting the flames of hatred and division in our society”.
The president’s visit comes amid heightened tension and a week of protests after a white police officer shot a black man, Jacob Blake, in the back seven times last weekend, partially paralyzing him.
“He loves the people of Wisconsin and looks forward to speaking to them directly and uniting the state,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in an interview with Fox and Friends on Monday.
She mocked the idea that Biden should deliver a speech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Monday in response to the riots in Wisconsin and elsewhere, saying that in contrast, Trump “shows up”
But Wisconsin’s Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, did not see the president’s visit as helpful and wrote to the president on Sunday, “I am concerned that your presence will only hinder our healing.”
In his letter, Evers expressed concern that the president’s visit would divert resources from the city’s recovery “at a time when it is crucial that we continue to focus on protecting the people of Kenosha and responding to support the community. “
While the state’s Democratic governor does not welcome the president’s visit, seven conservative-minded members of the 23-person Kenosha County Board that represents the area around the city wrote a separate letter encouraging Trump to visit.
“Please do not cancel your plans to visit Kenosha to meet with citizens and business owners who have been devastated by violence over the past week,” the letter said. “Kenoshans are hurt and seeking guidance and your guidance during this time of crisis is greatly appreciated by those devastated by the violence in Kenosha.”
McEnany said the current plan is for the president to meet with law enforcement and “inspect some of the damage caused by the riot” in Kenosha.
Since Blake’s shooting, the protesters have been marching daily for over a week, demanding racial justice and rejecting the brutality of the police. Some gatherings have resulted in property damage, and police said an Illinois teenager opened fire during the demonstrations on Tuesday, killing two protesters.
It remained an open question on Monday whether the president could meet with Blake’s family. When asked about the possibility, McEnany said the White House is trying to reach the family but has “still not been able to connect.”
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters Friday that he had spoken to a family pastor but had not been able to speak to any of Blake’s relatives.
“Our family doesn’t want anything special to do with him,” Blake’s uncle Justin Blake said in an interview with ABC News on Sunday. “We believe that he instigated this violence.”
The president was silent for days about Blake’s shooting after the incident and only broke his silence on Friday in an interview with ABC subsidiary WMUR. He said, “It wasn’t a good sight, I certainly didn’t like the sight and most people would agree with that.”
On Monday, McEnany wouldn’t say whether Trump condemned the alleged actions of teenager Kyle Rittenhouse, who prosecutors said shot two people in Kenosha.
“The president will not weigh that again,” she said during a press conference at the White House.
Over the weekend, Trump “liked” a tweet in which Rittenhouse “was a good example of why I chose Trump”.
Speaking to ABC News, McEnany said Trump did so to “bring attention to some of the details that are not so well known about this case,” including that Rittenhouse “was attacked and one of the people who came before.” Arrived place had a gun. “
Rittenhouse lawyers have portrayed the teenager as attacked. According to prosecutors, the third person who shot Rittenhouse – Gaige Grosskreutz, who was injured but did not die – appeared to be holding a pistol when he was shot.
“There were some details that weren’t public or as public as they should be, so he was referring to them with something similar,” McEnany said.
The president teased his upcoming trip on Twitter, saying on Monday, “I’ll see you on Tuesday!” and made a misleading claim when he sent in the National Guard, coupled with another outlandish claim that “otherwise there would be no kenosha”.
But it was the governor of Wisconsin – not the president – who activated the National Guard. The president does not have the power to simply send the National Guard at his will, as he implied in the tweet and previously claimed.
While the president could attempt to invoke the Insurgency Act to deploy active federal forces domestically in exceptional circumstances, the president has not done so.
However, at a campaign rally on Friday, Trump said, “We need to look at this,” possibly using the future insurgency law, as he tried to shape his re-election campaign for a mission to “save democracy from the mob”. ”
The president threatened to invoke the law in nationwide, largely peaceful protests in June, but ultimately never did.
Whitney Lloyd, Zohreen Shah and Janice McDonald of ABC News contributed to this report.