According to Trump’s public schedule, the President is expected to begin his trip Tuesday afternoon with a visit to a “property affected by recent riots.” He’s then scheduled to visit a local high school and the city’s emergency operations center. Before departing Kenosha, he’ll participate in a roundtable focused on community safety.
Attorney General William Barr and acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf were seen accompanying the President on the trip. On Monday, the President met with the Wolf and Barr to discuss the ongoing civil unrest across the country, two administration sources told CNN.
Trump’s visit to the swing state is another attempt to continue his campaign of linking Democrat-run cities and states to violence ahead of the November election in an attempt to paint himself as voters’ candidate for law and order.
Before boarding Air Force One Tuesday, Trump told reporters he blamed the press for fueling ongoing demonstrations across the country more than he blamed his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden.
“You people, I tell ya, if we only had an honest press in this country. It would be much more advanced. But we have a very dishonest press,” he said, later adding, “The press should be ashamed of themselves. I think the press, the media is what’s fueling this, more so than even Biden, ’cause Biden doesn’t know he’s alive.”
Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers asked Trump to not visit Kenosha as the city works to heal and to prevent diverting local resources for a presidential visit.
And Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian, a Democrat, told CNN’s Pamela Brown on “Erin Burnett OutFront” Monday that he is disappointed that the President is coming.
“Our community has gone through a great deal and there is no time right now for politics to be played. We would prefer the President had waited at least another week or so before coming to visit,” Antaramian said. “The President is always welcome. But at this time, it’s just the wrong time.”
Jim Kreuser, the Kenosha County Executive, has echoed those sentiments, and the Kenosha County Sheriff, David Beth, said a visit by any major figure will create extra work for the department.
Biden has said he’s considering a visit to Wisconsin.
Biden’s advisers are discussing a possible visit as soon as this week, a source with knowledge of the discussions said, adding that the situation remains fluid.
Antaramian has said he also would like Biden to wait a week before visiting.
Refusing to condemn right-wing agitators
Trump in recent weeks has repeatedly pointed to at times violent demonstrations following incidents of police violence against Black people to claim that such unrest would be inflamed if Biden is elected.
He’s also largely ignored the anguish expressed nationwide by many Americans. On Monday, Trump said the demonstrations against police brutality seen across the country were not “peaceful protests,” but “anarchy.”
But Trump has not acknowledged whether his visit could embolden violence by right-wing vigilantes and agitators.
On Monday, he refused to denounce the violent actions by right-wing agitators at demonstrations in Portland and Wisconsin, including Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old vigilante who allegedly killed two protesters and injured another in Kenosha.
Trump said Rittenhouse “probably would have been killed” had he not fatally shot two protesters.
Asked if he agreed with armed vigilantes like Rittenhouse taking to the streets, Trump said he’d “like to see law enforcement take care of everything,” but didn’t condemn vigilantism.
He also argued that his supporters spraying a form of pepper spray and firing paintballs at protesters over the weekend were using them as “a defensive mechanism” when they rolled through the streets of Portland.
“They had large numbers of people that were supporters, but that was a peaceful protest,” Trump said in a response to a question from CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, “and paint is not — and paint as a defensive mechanism. Paint is not bullets.”
This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.
CNN’s Nikki Carvajal, Konstantin Toropin, Renee Baharaeen and Arlette Saenz contributed to this report.