UPDATE, 2:23 PM PT: President Donald Trump told reporters that he talked with the family of George Floyd on Friday and said that he asked the Justice Department to expedite the investigation into his death.
“It’s a terrible thing. We all saw what we saw and it’s very hard to even conceive of anything other than what we did see,” Trump said, referring to the video of Floyd being pinned down by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin was arrested on Friday on state third degree murder and manslaughter charges.
“It should never have happened. It should never be allowed to happen, a thing like that,” he said. “But we are determined that justice be served.”
Trump made the remarks at a White House meeting with business leaders on reopening the economy.
“We also have to make the statement, and it’s very important, that we have peaceful protesters, and support the rights of peaceful protesters,” Trump said “We cannot allow a situation like happened in Minneapolis to descend further into lawless anarchy and chaos.”
PREVIOUSLY, 12:34 PM PT: Donald Trump held a quickly scheduled news conference today, but said nothing about the death of George Floyd, the fires in Minneapolis, or his own “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” tweet that was slapped with a Twitter warning label about “glorifying violence.”
But the president did deliver remarks on China, announcing that the U.S. would be terminating its relationship with the World Health Organization in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic. He took no questions.
Reporters shouted at Trump as he left the podium, asking, “Sir, why not address Minnesota?” Correspondents had expected to ask about the unrest in Minneapolis, as protests escalate over the death of George Floyd.
“Stunning. President Trump says nothing about Minnesota as the nation is on edge and leaves the Rose Garden without taking questions,” wrote Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour.
CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin said that it was “shocking” that he did not make a statement about Minneapolis or take questions. On MSNBC, Chuck Todd asked, “Is the president afraid to lead right now?”
On Fox News, Chris Wallace said, “The reason he left, clearly, is because he knew he was going to be asked a lot of questions about his response to the situation in Minnesota… He didn’t want to answer questions about that today, apparently.”
Lester Holt anchored an NBC News special report for the press conference, anticipating Trump’s comments on the unrest. But when Trump left without taking questions, White House correspondent Kristen Welker said, “You saw my colleagues there in the Rose Garden standing up raising their hands trying to get questions to President Trump about what we are witnessing in Minneapolis — the unrest, the pain and the American city in a state of crisis, and yet President Trump’s focus was on China in his remarks.”
The abrupt end of the news conference came after his tweet earlier in the day, when he commented on the George Floyd protests by writing, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter slapped a label on the tweet for violating its rules on “glorifying violence,” but Trump later tried to clarify what he meant.
He wrote on Friday afternoon: “Looting leads to shooting, and that’s why a man was shot and killed in Minneapolis on Wednesday night – or look at what just happened in Louisville with 7 people shot. I don’t want this to happen, and that’s what the expression put out last night means. It was spoken as a fact, not as a statement. It’s very simple, nobody should have any problem with this other than the haters, and those looking to cause trouble on social media. Honor the memory of George Floyd!”
In his remarks to reporters, Trump also said that his administration would begin the process of eliminating policy exemptions that give “special treatment” to Hong Kong, after China tightened its security laws over the region.
Trump’s termination of U.S. ties to WHO is linked to his criticism of how China responded to the coronavirus crisis. The president has previously bashed WHO for initially taking China at its word over the spread of the virus, although he also expressed support for President Xi Jinping.
“China’s cover up of the Wuhan virus allowed the disease to spread all over the world, instigating a global pandemic that has cost more than 100,000 Americans and over a million lives around the world,” Trump said. “Chinese officials ignored their reporting obligations to the World Health Organization and pressured the World Health Organization to mislead the world when the virus was first discovered by Chinese authorities.”
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