White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien insisted on Sunday morning that President Donald Trump’s inflammatory tweets calling on law enforcement to release “vicious dogs” and the military to shoot protesters were actually attempts by the president to “deescalate violence.”
Over the past few days, as protests over Minneapolis police killing an unarmed black man have grown increasingly more intense and violent, the president has fired off several incendiary tweets demanding cops and the military take swift action.
In one notorious tweet, the president exclaimed that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” a phrase that dates back to the 1960s when a Miami police chief vowed a take-no-prisoners approach to unrest in black neighborhoods. The president’s tweet was later deemed by Twitter to violate its rules about glorifying violence.
During a slate of Sunday news show appearances, O’Brien waved off any concerns about the president’s remarks as the protests rage out of control. CNN anchor Jake Tapper pressed the national security adviser on the matter, noting that both Republican and Democratic governors have suggested Trump’s tweets are stoking more anger.
“The president invoked vicious dogs and ominous weapons being wielded against protesters outside the White House,” Tapper wondered aloud. “Do you think messages like that are helping to unite the country and calm fears?”
Referencing the president’s attempted walkback of the looting tweet, O’Brien added: “He said, look, he was trying to deescalate, he didn’t want violence, he’s trying to stop the violence that took place overnight.”
“The message, and it’s a strong message, we want law and order in this country,” he continued. “We want peaceful protesters who have real concerns about brutality and racism, they need to be able to go to the city hall, they need to be able to petition their government and let their voices be heard.”
The CNN anchor pushed back, highlighting the president’s subsequent tweets in which he boasted that the Secret Service confronting protesters at the White House could sic “vicious dogs” and use “ominous weapons” against the demonstrators if things got out of hand.
“This is not calming language. I don’t doubt that President Trump was disturbed by the video of George Floyd,” Tapper further pointed out. “It’s horrific and obscene, frankly. But the president, his passion has not been about the way you’re speaking this morning about what happened to George Floyd and the indecency of that, but about the protesters and the violence some of them are causing. And we have government officials, Democrats and Republicans, saying that the president is using inflammatory language.”
O’Brien, however, said that the president’s “passion comes from the fact that we’ve got great law enforcement officers, not the few bad apples like the officer that killed George Floyd, but we’ve got a few bad apples that have given law enforcement a bad name.”
In another appearance on ABC’s This Week, anchor George Stephanopoulos asked O’Brien if the president should take responsibility for the tweets and received the same response from the national security adviser.
“I think what he said about those tweets is he wants to deescalate violence and doesn’t want people looting,” O’Brien reacted. “Peaceful protesters, these great Americans, the difference between our country and authoritarian countries, when this happens, they petition the country for redress.”
The Trump adviser would also go on to dismiss any notion—despite what local and state authorities are saying—that far-right actors and white supremacists had any involvement in the destruction or incitement that has taken place in the nationwide protests. O’Brien, instead, placed all the blame on “far-left radicals” and “antifa.”
“Well, I have not seen those reports on far-right groups,” he told Tapper, adding: “This is being driven by antifa and they did it in Seattle, they’ve done it in Portland, they did it in Berkeley, this is a destructive force.”
“Right now, the president and the attorney general want to know what the FBI’s been doing to surveil, to disrupt, to take down antifa, to prosecute them,” O’Brien further said on This Week. “Not the first time they’re using military-style tactics to take advantage of this situation to burn down our cities. The FBI has to come up with a plan to deal with antifa.”
Additionally, O’Brien also categorically denied that there was systemic racism present within the nation’s law enforcement agencies, blaming police brutality against racial minorities on “a few bad apples” that are giving police a “bad name.”