Democracy Dies in Darkness

The Fix | Analysis

Trump is flirting with the idea that anti-Semitic incidents are false flags again

By Aaron Blake

February 28, 2017 at 6:31 PM

Signs responding to desecration are placed outside the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, Mo. (Michael Thomas/Getty Images)

This post has been updated.

President Trump seemed to suggest Tuesday that the recent bomb threats and vandalism at Jewish community centers and cemeteries across the country might be false flags, according to a Democratic attorney general who met with him. And Trump's comments came the same day that one of his top advisers suggested the culprits could be Democrats.

It wouldn't be the first time Trump went down this road.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) told reporters Tuesday that Trump expressed horror at the situation but also appeared to suggest it might not be anti-Semitism and that it could be "the reverse," The Post's Mark Berman confirmed. BillyPenn reporter Anna Orso first tweeted about Shapiro's comments:

Shapiro told BuzzFeed: "He just said, 'Sometimes it's the reverse, to make people — or to make others — look bad,' and he used the word 'reverse' I would say two to three times in his comments. He did correctly say at the top that it was reprehensible."

The Trump White House hasn't responded to a request for comment.

Earlier in the day, Anthony Scaramucci, who is Trump's pick to be director of the White House Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs, also suggested the attacks might not be as simple as they seem, pointing to a Breitbart story about Democrats allegedly inciting violence at Trump rallies.

Scaramucci later clarified that he wasn't blaming Democrats, just noting that it wasn't clear who was behind the anti-Semitic incidents.

This isn't the first time Trump or his advisers have flirted with this idea. It may have passed without much notice, but at the president's news conference two weeks ago, a reporter prefaced his question by saying such anti-Semitic things were being done "by supporters in your name."

Trump cut off the reporter, SiriusXM's Jared Rizzi, to take issue with that characterization:

And some of it — can I be honest with you? And this has to do with racism and horrible things that are put up. Some of it written by our opponents. You do know that. Do you understand that? You don't think anybody would do a thing like that. Some of the signs you'll see are not put up by the people that love or like Donald Trump, they're put up by the other side, and you think it's like playing it straight?

No. But you have some of those signs and some of that anger is caused by the other side. They'll do signs, and they'll do drawings that are inappropriate. It won't be my people. It will be the people on the other side to anger people like you. Okay.

The comments were oblique, but it seems clear Trump was referring to false flags. He specifically suggests that it's something underhanded ("You don't think anybody would do a thing like that") and that it's done to cause confusion ("It will be the people on the other side to anger people like you").

And of course, before the recent outbreak of threats to Jewish community centers, Trump regularly accused Democrats of fomenting unrest at his rallies — even saying President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton paid people to do it. These allegations stem from the James O'Keefe video that Scaramucci tweeted about. Our Fact Checker gave Trump's claim about Obama and Clinton three Pinocchios and said that the O'Keefe videos, which feature Democratic operatives plotting to sow discord, raise plenty of questions but don't prove anything.

We're still sorting out specifically what Trump said to Shapiro on Tuesday. But in this context, it wouldn't be all that surprising.


Aaron Blake is senior political reporter for The Fix.

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