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How Trump has responded to outrage over police brutality

Demonstrations turned violent in New York City Friday as crowds clashed with police for a second night in a row. In Washington, D.C., police tried to dispel hundreds who had gathered in front of the White House, some who threw bricks and bottles at U.S. Secret Service members. Washington Post's White House Bureau Chief Philip Rucker joins Hari Sreenivasan for more on President Trump's response.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    For more on the protests in Washington D.C. and President Trump's response I spoke with Phillip Rucker the Washington Post's White House Bureau Chief.

    Philip, it's not every day that we see protesters actually start going at the White House. I mean, it's a place in front of the White House that we've seen all sorts of protest. It's tradition. But last night seemed different.

  • Philip Rucker:

    It sure did. What we saw was a number of protesters through the city of Washington converging on the White House and demanding racial justice.

    We've seen similar demonstrations in a number of cities over the last 24, 48 hours. And it it came right up to President Trump's home. And he has been tweeting that he actually watched it all from the windows of the White House residence.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And his response, well, was classic President Trump, not what you'd expect?

  • Philip Rucker:

    It was not. You know his response to the protests in front of the White House on Friday night was to thank the Secret Service for their work containing the crowds, but also using some really interesting language.

    He talked about the dogs being vicious, referring apparently to police dogs — a reference to the law enforcement tactics that we saw in the 1960s in this country. A really jarring reference for him to make, especially after the comments that he made about looters and shooters a day earlier in reference to Minneapolis.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    That phrase is also something that segregationists used in the 60s. The president tried to clarify that that was not his intention yesterday, but it seemed a little confusing, even the clarification.

  • Philip Rucker:

    It was confusing. It's unclear what the president was trying to communicate when he used that phrase. But that, of course, is a phrase that the police chief in Miami back in the 60s would use in regard to going after robbers and other vandals in black neighborhoods in that city. It was very much a racially charged phrase.

    The president claimed he didn't know the origins of the phrase, but it's unclear where he heard it from. But clearly, it was a dog whistle, as many of his supporters heard it.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    These protests are happening and this conversation is happening when the president is also trying to steer the nation towards the topic of China, towards the topic of Twitter and censorship. While we still have a massive pandemic that hasn't ended.

  • Philip Rucker:

    That's right. What we've seen from the president the last few weeks is a deliberate effort to try to distract and divert attention from the pandemic and from what many public health experts see as the failures of the federal government to contain the spread of the coronavirus and save lives and focus instead on a number of diversions — from Trump's conspiratorial allegations about President Trump and Vice President Biden, to his deep spreading a debunked conspiracy theory about a cable show host, Joe Scarborough, being implicated somehow in the death of a young staffer more than two decades ago.

    A number of distraction from the president seemed aimed, according to my reporting, at generating alternative headlines and storylines for him that he thinks would be helpful in the campaign, but ultimately end up trying to distract his supporters and other Americans from the crisis playing out everyday in our country.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Philip Rucker of The Washington Post, thanks so much for joining us.

  • Philip Rucker:

    Thank you.

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