A President who has repeatedly touted himself as pro-law enforcement is now being accused of fueling a growing threat of extremists that has law enforcement officials across the nation on high alert.
As the presidency of Donald Trump draws to an end, the recent Trump-inspired attacks on law enforcement officers, his refusal to take the steps necessary to defuse violent elements of his base and the President’s years-long assault on agencies such as the FBI and Justice Department, are all casting serious doubt on the sincerity of his self-described support for those who wear the badge.
On January 6, the nation watched with horror as a mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol Building following a rally near the White House. The deadly attack was in part the result of Trump’s efforts to whip up fear and anger among his base with false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
Among the five people who died in the attack was a US Capitol Police officer who had been attempting to defend the building. Eyewitness video from the insurgence shows numerous rioters assaulting law enforcement officers, including gruesome images of a Metropolitan Police Department officer being crushed in a doorway as he screamed in agony.
Trump was silent for much of the day, offering tepid condemnation of his supporters who committed violence against police in his name. The President later released a stronger video denouncing the incident, but sources told CNN that Trump later appeared to regret making the video.
In addition to the recent violence against law enforcement officers at the Capitol by Trump supporters, intelligence officials suggest the mob attack did not happen in a vacuum.
According to a US intelligence bulletin obtained by CNN, extremists view the domestic terrorist attack by the pro-Trump mob as a success and a motivator to conduct future violence.
Just as troubling, the intelligence bulletin indicated that many of the extremists’ grievances that could fuel follow-on attacks against government and law enforcement officials closely mirror the baseless claims frequently repeated by Trump. For example, FBI and Department of Homeland Security intelligence analysts said conspiracy theories such as the existence of a “deep state” in government, as well as the baseless belief among extremists that mass voter fraud tipped the 2020 presidential election in Biden’s favor, are fueling domestic extremists.
Although Trump has enjoyed widespread support from police unions in the run up to the 2020 election, even law enforcement organizations that endorsed him for reelection – such as the powerful Fraternal Order of Police – were appalled at the Trump-fueled January 6 attack on the Capitol.
In a strongly worded statement imploring the President to speak out against the Capitol violence, the group said, “the images coming in from the United State Capitol Building today are heartbreaking to every American. We call on President Trump to forcefully urge these demonstrators to stop their unlawful activity, to stand down, and to disperse.”
Encouraging excessive force
The recent Trump-inspired assault on police officers is not the only controversial period Trump has faced when it came to his relationship with law enforcement.
While addressing a group of police officers early in his presidency, Trump encouraged those in attendance to be “rough” with suspects.
“When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon. You see them thrown in rough,” Trump said, adding, “Please don’t be too nice.”
The President’s comments praising the excessive use of force were met with widespread condemnation by some law enforcement agencies, including the head of the New York City Police Department, who said that to “suggest that police officers apply any standard in the use of force other than what is reasonable and necessary is irresponsible, unprofessional and sends the wrong message to law enforcement as well as the public.”
The Gainesville, Florida, police department said Trump had “no business endorsing or condoning cops being rough with arrestees and suggesting that we should slam their heads onto the car while putting them in.” The department added that Trump’s remarks “set modern policing back and erased a lot of the strides we have made to build trust in our community.”
Clashing with the feds
Perhaps Trump’s most notorious contradiction in his alleged full-throated support for law enforcement was his endless clashing with agencies such as the FBI and Justice Department as they worked to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Launched in July 2016, the FBI’s Russia investigation, code named Crossfire Hurricane, probed four members of Trump’s campaign and their suspected ties to the Kremlin, and was frequently the target of Trump’s ire. The investigation was later taken over by veteran prosecutor Robert Mueller, whom Trump constantly attacked and worked to undermine throughout the course of the investigation.
One of the subjects of the investigation, retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his dealings with the Russians and was fired from his position as Trump’s national security adviser. Trump later pardoned Flynn, claiming without evidence that Flynn was a victim in an attempt by federal investigators to undermine the Trump presidency.
Two other Trump allies, Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, were similarly pardoned by Trump after they were convicted of committing federal crimes. Similar to the Flynn pardon, Trump blasted the federal law enforcement officers who investigated Stone and Manafort, calling them corrupt and partisan.
Trump’s caustic comments about the investigators working to uncover Russian influence stood at odds with his attempted “pro-law enforcement” image, as did comments made by the President’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, when he compared career FBI agents to murderous Nazis.
With less than a week remaining as president, Trump’s ceaseless false claims of mass voter fraud continue to threaten and make life more difficult for law enforcement in America.
As the nation prepares to inaugurate Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States, federal law enforcement agencies have transformed the nation’s capital into a veritable fortress – fearful that pro-Trump supporters could stage an attack along the lines of the Trump-inspired violent insurgence at the US Capitol on January 6.
FBI field offices across the nation are spinning up command posts to monitor potential violence in their regions by those who believe Trump’s lies about the 2020 election results, and in places such as Michigan, law enforcement officers across the state are being mobilized to protect life and property.
The potential threats on the horizon place America’s law enforcement officers squarely in harm’s way. And with Trump still refusing to accept the legitimacy of the election and forcefully tell his supporters to back down, police in America remain on high alert, and potential targets for more Trump-inspired violence.