Trump suggests accused Kenosha killer Kyle Rittenhouse acted in self defense

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media during a news conference in the briefing room at the White House on August 31, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Win McNamee | Getty Images

President Donald Trump suggested Monday that a 17-year-old accused of killing two people during the civil unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, may have acted in self defense.

“You saw the same tape as I saw, and he was trying to get away from them,” Trump said at a White House press briefing when asked about Kyle Rittenhouse, an Illinois resident who was arrested last week after two people were shot and killed during the tumultuous protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake. 

Rittenhouse is facing charges including first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree reckless homicide. Videos appearing to show the incident involving Rittenhouse have been widely circulated on social media, becoming a political Rorschach test as some condemn the teen while others spring to his defense.

“I guess it looks like and he fell and then they very violently attacked him and it was something we’re looking at right now and it’s under investigation,” Trump said at the briefing Monday evening.

“I guess he was in very big trouble. He probably would have been killed. But it’s under investigation,” Trump said.

Trump’s remarks followed a lengthy tirade against Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who earlier in the day had condemned violence in all forms at the protests while blaming the president for fomenting a climate of violence. The president slammed Biden for not specifically calling out “far-left” violence from groups like Antifa.

But when a reporter asked if Trump condemned his supporters who shot paintballs and sprayed mace in clashes with protesters in Portland, Oregon, over the weekend, the president declined to do so.

“I understand they had large numbers of people that were supporters, but that was a peaceful protest,” he said of the pro-Trump demonstrators.

“And paint is a defensive mechanism. Paint is not bullets,” Trump said before pointing out that another man had been shot and killed in Portland and claiming to the reporter that “your supporters” were responsible.

In a statement later Monday night, Biden said that Trump “declined to rebuke violence” at the press conference.

“He wouldn’t even repudiate one of his supporters who is charged with murder because of his attacks on others. He is too weak, too scared of the hatred he has stirred to put an end to it,” Biden said.

Trump is scheduled to visit Kenosha on Tuesday.

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