Updated at 12:42 p.m. ET
President Trump is visiting Kenosha, Wis., a city roiled by unrest following the police shooting of Jacob Blake last month in a state seen as crucial to Trump’s reelection prospects in November.
Trump on Tuesday plans to visit an emergency management center, meet with police and tour a section of the city damaged by rioting that followed the shooting of the 29-year-old Black man.
Trump said Monday that he did not plan to meet with Blake’s family because he said such a meeting would include the family’s attorney. Asked again whether he would meet with them on Tuesday before boarding Air Force One, Trump said, “I don’t know yet. We’ll see.”
Two people were killed during the subsequent protests against racism and police brutality last week. Seventeen-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse has been charged with six criminal counts, including first-degree intentional homicide. Rittenhouse, who is white, is a staunch law enforcement supporter.
Trump appeared to defend Rittenhouse on Monday, saying, “He was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like.”
While an investigation into the shooting is ongoing, Trump said, “I guess he was in very big trouble. He probably would have been killed.” Trump did not elaborate on what kind of trouble Rittenhouse may have been in.
As for the police shooting Blake multiple times at close range, which left Blake paralyzed from the waist down, Trump has avoided directly condemning law enforcement actions. In an interview with Fox’s Laura Ingraham on Monday, Trump compared the police shooting to a mistake in a golf tournament.
“Shooting the guy in the back many times,” he said, “I mean, couldn’t you have done something different, couldn’t you have wrestled him? You know, I mean, in the meantime, he might’ve been going for a weapon. You know there’s a whole big thing there, but they choke. Just like in a golf tournament, they miss a 3-foot putt.”
Trump, who has been campaigning on a “law and order” theme, blamed local officials for the unrest in Kenosha and other cities this summer. Demonstrators across the country have been protesting police violence and systemic racism.
Wisconsin’s governor and Kenosha’s mayor urged Trump to put off his visit, saying the city needs time to heal. In a tweet Sunday, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said of Trump’s plans, “There is too much good starting to happen in Kenosha. The city was on fire and we need healing, not a barrel of gasoline rolling in.”
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Monday accused Trump of fomenting the violence, calling him a “toxic presence.”
Wisconsin is a key battleground state this fall. Trump narrowly won it in 2016, and Democrats are fighting to return the state to their column.