“But it doesn’t get any more obvious or it doesn’t get any worse than that,” the president added.
Trump devoted much of the 30-minute segment to the unrest gripping cities nationwide, calling the police killing of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta “a terrible situation,” but adding, “you can’t resist a police officer.” He also discussed former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, raising objections about kneeling in protest during the national anthem while criticizing the NFL’s recent announcement supporting such demonstrations.
The interview comes just one day after Trump, who has been widely panned for his response to the protests, announced executive action on policing. The plan, which includes new federal incentives for local police to increase training and the creation of a national database to track misconduct, was met with outcry from Democrats and activists who argued it falls short of the sweeping reforms necessary for substantive change.
On Wednesday, Trump dipped back into the fatal incidents involving police officers and black citizens that have largely fueled the demonstrations, noting Floyd’s death is “a different kind of a case” from the shooting of Brooks.
In the video of Floyd’s arrest last month, Derek Chauvin, who at the time was a Minneapolis police officer, was seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while he was handcuffed on the ground. Floyd was unarmed and could be heard repeatedly saying that he couldn’t breathe while distressed onlookers begged Chauvin, a white man, to remove his knee.
After the video went viral, throngs of protesters took to the streets of Minneapolis to demand justice, setting off a movement that has resulted in a fierce reckoning with systemic racism in law enforcement and American society. Chauvin and three other officers involved have since been fired and now face murder charges.
Trump has publicly condemned Floyd’s death, a stance he reiterated on Wednesday. The president, without mentioning Chauvin by name, said the former officer “has some big problems.”
“I just left a big group of the top sheriffs and law enforcement people in the country, and nobody was sticking up for what he did,” Trump said on Fox News.
But Trump did not direct similar criticism toward former Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe, who shot Brooks in the back following a confrontation stemming from a DUI stop and allegedly kicked the 27-year-old when he was prone on the ground after the shooting. On Wednesday, Rolfe was charged with felony murder and aggravated assault, among other offenses. The second officer at the scene, Devin Brosnan, is also facing criminal charges.
“I thought it was a terrible situation, but you can’t resist a police officer,” Trump said, describing the interaction as “out of control.” “If you have a disagreement, you have to take it up after the fact.”
Trump went on to mention a statement released Wednesday by Rolfe’s lawyers, which said the former officer opened fire after hearing a sound “like a gunshot and saw a flash in front of him.”
“I don’t know that I would have necessarily believed that, but I will tell you that’s a very interesting thing,” Trump said.
He added that what happens next is “going to be up to justice.”
“I hope he gets a fair shake because police have not been treated fairly in our country,” Trump said of Rolfe. “Again, you can’t resist a police officer like that. And they ended up in a very terrible disagreement and look at the way it ended. Very bad, very bad.”
Trump also continued to defend police in general on Wednesday, arguing that a “vast majority” of officers are “great people.”
“You have bad and you have great,” he said. “You have cops and police and law enforcement, they’re great people. … They do an incredible job and they keep us all safe and they love their country and they don’t want to make any mistakes. But they’re under siege, there’s no question about that.”
Later in the interview, Hannity brought up comments Trump made earlier in the day about not being opposed to Kaepernick returning to the NFL. Kaepernick, the first NFL player to kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice, was exiled by the league and has not played since the 2016 season.
Speaking on Fox News, the president again stressed Kaepernick should get another shot at playing in the league “if he has the ability.”
“He was a great rookie and his second year was great, and then after that he started going downhill rather rapidly and then he was out of football and then he started suing everybody,” Trump said, offering his take on Kaepernick’s career. “I think he made a lot more money doing that than he did with football.”
As The Washington Post’s Des Bieler reported, Kaepernick led the 49ers to a second straight appearance in the NFC championship game during his third season. Kaepernick struggled the following season under a new head coach and undergoing a shoulder operation. He went on to have two more surgeries in the offseason that contributed to him not starting at the beginning of the 2016 season.
But even though he is open to Kaepernick’s return, Trump made it clear Wednesday that he still staunchly disapproves of kneeling during the anthem. The president added he was “surprised” at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who earlier this month admitted the league should not have ignored players who protested police brutality and encouraged peaceful demonstrations.
“When the national anthem plays and our flag, the great American flag is raised, you should not be kneeling,” Trump said. “You should standing, ideally with your hand on your heart or saluting.”