President Trump campaigned as a law-and-order leader who would be tough on crime and criminals. But that attitude doesn’t seem to extend to those closest to him.
Take, for example, Trump’s response to the pre-dawn FBI raid on Roger Stone, an adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign. As The Washington Post’s Alex Horton reported:
At least a dozen FBI agents from a tactical response team wielding M4 rifles and wearing body armor announced their presence at Stone’s Florida home early Friday.
“FBI!” one agent yelled, and pounded a fist on the door. “Open the door.”
Stone decried the force of the federal agents at his home as an overbearing intimidation tactic. “I opened the door to pointed automatic weapons. I was handcuffed,” he later said.
Stone, a longtime Trump friend, has been charged with obstruction, witness tampering and lying to Congress in connection with the special counsel’s investigation of Russian election interference.
Stone later said the agents had been polite; my colleagues have pointed out this is pretty standard FBI procedure. There were several agents with weapons on hand because prosecutors worried Stone (who has described himself as a “dirty trickster") might "destroy evidence if he was arrested in any way that gave him a way to do so or an opportunity to surrender,” former federal prosecutor Kenneth White told The Post’s Deanna Paul.
No shots were fired. No one died. And Stone was peacefully apprehended.
Even so, Trump told the Daily Caller that the method of arrest was “very disappointing.”
“I thought it was very unusual," he said. "You know, I’ve stayed out of that whole situation because there was no collusion whatsoever. There was no nothing done wrong. And frankly, I could have waded in very early. I could have ended it very easily if I wanted to. But just let it run its course. But I will say, I’m speaking for a lot of people that were very disappointed to see that go down that way. To see it happen where it was on camera, on top of it. That was a very, very disappointing scene.”
That’s a very different message from other times Trump has discussed how law enforcement should treat suspected criminals.
During a July 2017 speech to law enforcement officers, the president told the attendees not to protect suspects under arrest. While mimicking the physical motion of an office protecting a suspect’s head at risk of bumping up against a squad car, Trump said:
“When you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over?”
“Like, don’t hit their head, and they just killed somebody — don’t hit their head,” Trump continued. “I said, you can take the hand away, okay?”
The comments were made after Trump spoke of violent MS-13 gangs that include undocumented immigrants ravaging Long Island towns.
“You see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon — you just see them thrown in, rough — I said, please don’t be too nice,” he said.
At the time, Trump was widely criticized for his remarks. “The last thing we need is a green light from the president of the United States for officers to use unnecessary force," Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, told Washington radio station WTOP.
Taken together, it seems as though Trump has two different messages for law enforcement. When it comes to arresting people of color, police shouldn’t hold back. But those closest to him — even those suspected of being involved with something as serious as interfering with an election — deserve an entirely different, more humane kind of treatment.