U.S. President Donald Trump is not waiting for a trial to sort out what happened on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin, where prosecutors say a 17-year-old with a semi-automatic rifle fatally shot two men on a night of protest and violence. He’s giving an account at odds with the authorities who charged Kyle Rittenhouse with homicide.
In remarks surrounding and during his trip Tuesday to Kenosha, Trump also falsely claimed credit for National Guard deployments that he actually did not authorize. Wisconsin’s Democratic governor did.
TRUMP, asked if was going to condemn the actions of Rittenhouse: “We’re looking at all of it. And that was an interesting situation. You saw the same tape as I saw. And he was trying to get away from them, I guess; it looks like. And he fell, and then they very violently attacked him. And it was something that we’re looking at right now and it’s under investigation. But I guess he was in very big trouble. He would have been — I — he probably would have been killed.” — news conference Monday before traveling to Kenosha on Tuesday.
THE FACTS: His implication that Rittenhouse only shot the men after he tripped and they attacked him is wrong. The first fatal shooting happened before Rittenhouse ran away and fell.
Trump did not say whom he meant by “they” — the two men he shot or others in pursuit of him. But he spoke in defense of someone who opposed racial-justice protesters, who authorities say was illegally carrying a semi-automatic rifle and who prosecutors accuse of committing intentional homicide.
According to the criminal complaint released by prosecutors, victim Joseph Rosenbaum was shot and killed first, after following Rittenhouse into a parking lot, where Rosenbaum threw a plastic bag at the gunman and tried to take the weapon from him.
The medical examiner found that Rosenbaum was shot in the groin and back — which fractured his pelvis and perforated his right lung and liver — and his left hand. He also suffered a superficial wound to his left thigh and a graze wound to his forehead.
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Rittenhouse then ran down the street and was chased by several people trying to stop him and shouting that he just shot someone, according to the criminal complaint and cellphone video footage.
He tripped and fell. Anthony Huber, who was carrying a skateboard, was shot in the chest after apparently trying to wrest the gun from Rittenhouse, the complaint said. A third man was shot and injured.
Rittenhouse’s lawyer said he acted to defend himself.
TRUMP, on Wisconsin officials and the National Guard: “Once they responded and once we took, you know, control of it, things went really well.” — remarks in Kenosha.
TRUMP: “One of the reasons I’m making the trip today and going to Wisconsin is we’ve had such a big success in shutting down what would be, right now, a city — that would’ve been Kenosha — a city that would’ve been burnt to the ground by now. ... And it all stopped immediately upon the National Guard’s arrival.” — remarks Tuesday before boarding Air Force One to Wisconsin.
THE FACTS: That’s a distortion. He had nothing to do with the deployment of the National Guard in Wisconsin. The federal government never “took control of it.”
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers activated the state’s National Guard the day after a Kenosha police officer shot Jacob Blake, sparking protests and violence over police actions and racism. When National Guard forces from three other states came in to help, it was because the governor had asked for that help from fellow governors, not the White House.
Evers said National Guard troops from Arizona, Michigan and Alabama were operating under the control of those states and Wisconsin, “not in a federal status.” National Guards answer to governors and sometimes state legislatures, not Washington.
The federal government sent deputy marshals from the U.S. Marshals Service and agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, about 200 in all. The restoration of order was primarily in the hands of National Guard units and local law enforcement.
As of Monday, 1,000 National Guard troops from Wisconsin were in Kenosha along with 500 National Guard troops from the other three states, said Wisconsin National Guard Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp.