Stepping up an attack he began on Twitter last week, President Trump on Monday spent more than four minutes at a White House meeting inveighing against Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and the six-block protest area on Capitol Hill now known as CHOP.
“These people have taken over a vast part, a major part, a very good part of a place called Seattle,” Trump said in response to a reporter’s question.
Alternatively condemning the protest and name-calling Inslee and Durkan, the president alleged the Capitol Hill Organized Protest was the work of “violent people” and referenced video he said he’d purportedly seen on Fox News of people “hitting” and “punching.” It was not immediately clear what video he was referring to. On Friday, the Seattle Times reported that Fox News had used altered photos of the Seattle protest on its website. The network later removed the doctored images and issued an apology.
The scene on Capitol Hill has been described as mostly peaceful and even festival-like in recent days. Although on Sunday night, an intern for the Daily Caller, a conservative news website, posted video to Twitter showing protesters knocking down the fence at an auto repair shop near the CHOP. The reporter who posted the video, Jorge Ventura, said in his tweet that the protesters were demanding the release of a man who had broken into the business and started a fire.
“And you have a governor who doesn’t do a damn thing about it and you have a mayor that doesn’t know she’s alive,” Trump continued in his comments at the White House.
Trump called Durkan “a mayor who’s scared stiff” and, invoking Inslee’s brief run for president last year said, “We have a governor that’s one of the most overrated politicians in the country, he just ran for president, he got less than one percent.”
The president also mocked Inslee’s response last week when asked about the Capitol Hill protest.
“They took over his city, Seattle, and he said ‘I didn’t hear anything about it,” Trump said.
When asked about the situation on Capitol Hill last Wednesday, Inslee said: “Well, that’s news to me, so I’ll have to reserve any comment about it.”
Trump also said Inslee should call in the National Guard and vowed to intervene to end the occupation.
“Now if they don’t do the job, I’ll do the job and I’ve already spoken to the Attorney General about it,” Trump said.
Asked what he had in mind, Trump said he had “about 10 different things” he was considering “any one of which will solve the problem quickly.” But he offered no specifics or a timeline.
In response, an Inslee spokesperson, Tara Lee, said the decision to deploy the Guard is made after a local government requests that assistance, not unilaterally. Asked about Trump’s threat to take action himself, Lee said: “The president says a lot of things, most of which never come to fruition.”
Our President will do anything to avoid listening to the voices of millions of Americans asking for change. He instead distracts with lies and language purposefully intended to incite violence. He thrives on division when we desperately need to move forward as a nation. https://t.co/xDMnjmrNKA
— Mayor Jenny Durkan (@MayorJenny) June 16, 2020
Last week, Trump tweeted about the Seattle protest and criticized the leadership of Inslee and Durkan, prompting pointed responses from both. In a tweet, Inslee wrote: “A man who is totally incapable of governing should stay out of Washington state’s business.” But Monday’s comments marked the first time Trump had spoken publicly about the situation.
Asserting that he wants “law and order,” Trump accused the “radical left press” of not covering the situation on Capitol Hill and warned that other cities could be next.
“The problem with what happened in Seattle is it spreads and all of a sudden they’ll say, ‘Let’s do some other city and let’s do another one’ and we’re not going to let it happen,” Trump said.
Even before Trump’s comments at the White House, Inslee was using Trump’s attacks as a fundraising tool. In an email, Inslee’s campaign wrote: “Donald Trump is once again sowing lies to incite violence when he should be stepping up to show leadership.”
This story has been updated.