Trump signs executive order on police reform without addressing systemic racism


The AP headline sums it up well: Trump signs order on police reform, doesn’t mention racism:

Following weeks of national protests since the death of George Floyd, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that he said would encourage better police practices. But he made no mention of the roiling national debate over racism spawned by police killings of black men and women.

Trump met privately with the families of several black Americans killed in interactions with police before his Rose Garden signing ceremony, and said he grieved for the lives lost and families devastated.

NBC News adds some details:

Trump opened his remarks Tuesday by saying that shortly before the Rose Garden signing he had met with with families of several Black people who were recently killed by police, including Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean, Antwon Rose, Jemel Roberson, Atatiana Jefferson, Michael Dean, Darius Tarver, Cameron Lamb and Everett Palmer.

“I can never imagine your pain or the depth of your anguish, but I can promise to fight for justice for all of our people,” he said of the families.

Lee Merritt, an attorney for the family of Arbery who attended the meeting with Trump on Tuesday morning, said that the president’s executive order “takes incremental steps,” not the “radical change” the families were looking for.

“He gave no indication that the families in that room reflected a problem in America, that policy could actually resolve it, and it can,” Merritt said, speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill. “So that was my concern.”

After meeting with Trump, the families did not stay for the executive order signing ceremony.

White House adviser Ja’Ron Smith explained the families’ absences as “a mutual decision because it really wasn’t about doing a photo opportunity.”

Ah, but it was a photo opportunity, just the one Trump wanted for use in his campaign ads:

Roughly a dozen law enforcement officials from around the country were invited to attend the ceremony, surrounding the president as he signed the executive order and posing for a photo (above).

The AP continues:

[Trump] quickly shifted his tone and devoted most of his public remarks to a need to respect and support “the brave men and women in blue who police our streets and keep us safe.”

He characterized the officers who have used excessive force as a “tiny” number of outliers among “trustworthy” police ranks.“

Reducing crime and raising standards are not opposite goals,” he said before signing the order, flanked by police officials (above).

But Trump, who has faced criticism for failing to acknowledge systemic racial bias and has advocated for rougher police treatment of suspects in the past, has continued to hold his ’law and order” line. At the signing event, he railed against those who committed violence during the largely peaceful protests while hailing the vast majority of officers as selfless public servants.

Trump said that, as part of the order, the use of chokeholds, which have become a symbol of police brutality, would be banned “except if an officer’s life is at risk.” Actually, the order instructs the Justice Department to push local police departments to be certified by a “reputable independent credentialing body” with use-of-force policies that prohibit the use of chokeholds, except when the use of deadly force is allowed by law. Chokeholds are already largely banned in police departments nationwide.

NBC News points out: The Supreme Court, however, has already said that under the Constitution, deadly force is only allowed when police officers fear for their own safety or that of others.

CNN provides additional details:

Trump said he was taking executive action to encourage police to adopt the “highest and the strongest” professional standards “to deliver a future of safety and security for Americans of every race, religion, color and creed.”

He went on to lambast efforts to defund departments and said police were owed respect for their work, recalling officers who ran into a burning World Trade Center on September 11.

Trump said Americans “demand law and order” and hailed the efforts of law enforcement to quell violence during protests against police brutality earlier this month.

The White House transcript has the full money quotes:

I strongly oppose the radical and dangerous efforts to defund, dismantle, and dissolve our police departments, especially now when we’ve achieved the lowest recorded crime rates in recent history.

Americans know the truth: Without police, there is chaos; without law, there is anarchy; and without safety, there is catastrophe. We need leaders at every level of government who have the moral clarity to state these obvious facts.

Again later:

Americans want law and order. They demand law and order. They may not say it, they may not be talking about it, but that’s what they want. Some of them don’t even know that’s what they want, but that’s what they want. And they understand that when you remove the police, you hurt those who have the least, the most.

“Law and order” has been racist code for jailing blacks “rioting” in the streets since Richard Nixon’s campaign in 1968. We all know what it means.

Later, Trump veered from a speech about police reform to launch political attacks, falsely claiming that his predecessor Barack Obama, along with his current election rival former Vice President Joe Biden, did not attempt to address police reform issues when they were in office.

Always with his Obama derangement syndrome.

Fact Check: Trump says Obama didn’t reform policing — but he did. Then the president ditched it. It was under Trump that several Obama-era reforms were scrapped.

He claimed the issue of school choice, long championed by conservatives, was the “civil rights statement of the year, of the decade, and probably beyond.”

And he delved into recent stock market rallies and an increase in retail sales as evidence, he claimed, that the economy is restarting after being frozen during the coronavirus pandemic — which he suggested was waning, even as cases increase in parts of the country.

Trump also said “before the end of the year, I predict we will have a very successful vaccine, therapeutic, and cure [for COVID-19].” He asserted the people working on it “came up with the AIDS vaccine” and “the Ebola vaccine and others.”

Just to be clear, there is no vaccine for AIDS or Ebola. There are therapeutics for AIDS. Trump has no idea what he is talking about.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel and Dr. Paul A. Offit recently offered their own prediction: in a desperate search for a boost, Trump could release a coronavirus vaccine that has not been shown to be safe and effective as an October surprise. Could Trump Turn a Vaccine Into a Campaign Stunt?

And more magical thinking from Trump: “Even without it [a vaccine] it goes away.”

As he concluded his speech, Trump seemed to allude to recent debates over dismantling or banning Confederate statues and symbols, an effort he opposes.

“We must build upon our heritage, not tear it down,” Trump said.

Like his efforts to strike a balance between meaningful police reform and supporting law enforcement, the aside about “heritage” was an indication of Trump signaling to his supporters his unchanged position on removing symbols of America’s racist history, even as he sought to demonstrate an interest in healing old wounds.

CNN made this troubling catch:

[T]uesday’s executive order is the result of an effort led by Ja’Ron Smith, a deputy assistant to the President, and Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. Smith and Kushner sought out police reform proposals from criminal justice reform advocates and law enforcement groups in the wake of Floyd’s killing.

That goddamn idiot son-in-law again? This shows you that Trump is not serious. Anything he doesn’t want to deal with, he goes to Jared.

Trump himself was not heavily involved in drafting the order, people familiar with the matter said. He and some of his top advisers have failed to acknowledge the role of systemic racism in police departments.

The order is relatively muted when it comes to sweeping police reforms that have been discussed by members of both parties recently.

NBC News adds:

Trump’s order fell far short of what activists and lawmakers have been calling for, including calls for an outright ban on chokeholds, which led to Floyd’s death, and on no-knock warrants, as was used in incident leading up to Taylor’s fatal shooting, among other things.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., panned Trump’s order as a “modest” action that “will not make up for his years of inflammatory rhetoric and policies designed to roll back the progress made in previous years.”

“Unfortunately, this executive order will not deliver the comprehensive meaningful change and accountability in our nation’s police departments that Americans are demanding,” Schumer said in a statement, demanding Congress quickly pass legislation to make it easier to hold police officers accountable for abuses and Trump commit to signing such a measure.

A release from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office said the “discretionary, nonmandatory” approach outlined in Trump’s order failed to take “basic steps” like banning racial profiling and doing away with legal barriers that prevent police accountability.

“The president’s weak executive order falls sadly and seriously short of what is required to combat the epidemic of racial injustice and police brutality that is murdering hundreds of Black Americans,” Pelosi said in the release, adding Trump’s measure “lacks meaningful, mandatory accountability measures to end misconduct.”

“During this moment of national anguish, we must insist on bold change, not meekly surrender to the bare minimum,” she said.

Congressional action

Trump’s executive order comes as lawmakers on Capitol Hill work to pass legislation to change police practices around the country.

Democrats unveiled a sweeping overhaul bill earlier this month that would ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants. Senate Republicans, who typically look to the White House for cues as to which direction the party is going on policy issues, also began working on their own policing plan earlier this month, with South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott — the only Black Republican in the Senate — leading the effort.

But Republican leadership indicated Monday that they were in no rush to pass a police reform bill before the Fourth of July recess, a delay that Sen. Scott said would be a “bad decision.”

Trump said Tuesday that the Republican plan could go “hand in hand” with his executive order.

The “Grim Reaper” of the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who has turned the Senate into a legislative graveyard, was struggling mightily not to say “states rights!” today. GOP and Democrats clash over police reform in Congress as pressure for action mounts:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell came out firmly against a Democratic plan to overhaul policing on Tuesday, saying that Democrats want to “federalize all of these issues. That’s a non-starter. The House version is going nowhere in the Senate.”

McConnell dismissed the Democratic proposal as “typical Democratic overreach to try to control everything in Washington. We have no interest in that.”

Arrrgh, state rights!” Just say it Mitch, you know you really wanted to.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, have reacted skeptically to the emerging legislation bill being that Senate Republicans are coalescing around being led by GOP Sen. Tim Scott.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer warned on Tuesday that Senate Republicans “seem to be on a path towards taking a much, much narrower, less inclusive approach — that is wrong.

Democrats have leverage to block the Scott plan from advancing. It will need 60 votes to clear a filibuster in order to begin debate, meaning Republicans will need at least seven Democratic votes to take the measure up.

Schumer refused to say Tuesday if Democrats would seek to block the Scott plan from coming to the floor for a debate, saying “we haven’t even seen the bill yet, so it’s premature to comment,” while also declining say if he’s encouraging Democrats to avoid co-sponsoring the plan. Schumer, meanwhile, criticized President Donald Trump’s executive order on policing, calling it “weak tea.”

McConnell is pushing for as broad support within the Senate GOP conference as possible for the emerging police overhaul bill, two GOP sources told CNN.

That comes after tension within the Senate GOP conference on the timeline for taking up the legislation spilled out into public view.

Scott expressed concerns on Monday after some senior Senate Republicans signaled that the chamber may have to wait at least a month to take up the policing legislation, warning, “I think us waiting a month before we vote is a bad decision.”

Major differences between the legislative proposals from Republicans and Democrats are likely to create hurdles to any attempt to get legislation across the finish line in Congress and to the President’s desk.


  1. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an interview on MSNBC responding to her Senate counterpart, Mitch McConnell:

    I think what the president had today was a photo op. And he did say Congress should act. The leader of the Senate who was there — the Republican leader of the Senate said the House bill is going nowhere. We’ll have none of that. You heard Senator Booker’s response to all of that. What we are proposing is something that is proposed by the Congressional Black Caucus, in the hopper for a number of years, worked on for a long time, understanding the nature of the problem. And you know what? The American people understand it, too. And so here we have a place where we can work together. We’ve had our chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Karen Bass, we’re so proud of her, having conversation and communication with the Fraternal Order of Police, respecting any suggestions that they may have. So this isn’t about drawing red lines in the sand. It’s about making a big difference, taking a giant step forward and saying to the leader in the Senate, you call yourself the grim reaper. How aptly named you are when you see how many people have died. How many people have died. How much lack of confidence there is and whether there is racial — systemic racism in our country, and clearly, there is. We have an opportunity for America. This is a time of reckoning to say we’re going to make a change that is real, not cosmetic, not perfunctory, not a photo op, but legislation that is real.

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