- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 10, 2020

President Trump is weighing an executive order on police practices in the coming days in the wake of nationwide protests over racial injustice, the White House said Wednesday, as polls show his popularity plunging since the death of George Floyd in police custody late last month.

White House officials said the president is considering proposals such as creating a national registry for police misconduct, requiring “de-escalation” training for cops and limiting or eliminating the use of chokeholds, although aides cautioned that no decisions had been made.

The White House did rule out a Democratic proposal to eliminate “qualified immunity,” which says government officials can be held liable only for violating clearly established federal law.

“That would result in police pulling back,” said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. “That’s a nonstarter.”

The president, who has kept largely out of the public eye this week, is traveling to Dallas on Thursday for a campaign fundraiser and a meeting with local officials on solutions to “historic economic, health and justice disparities” in the U.S., the White House said. The roundtable at a church will include law enforcement officials, religious leaders and small-business owners.

The trip comes after two days of relative isolation for Mr. Trump during the funeral for Mr. Floyd, a black man who was killed May 25 after being detained by a policeman in Minneapolis. While the president is defending police in general, Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden has aligned himself closely with the Floyd family and the Black Lives Matter movement that has taken up Mr. Floyd’s cause.

Poll hit

Two new polls released Wednesday showed how the president’s standing has taken a hit during the nationwide protests over Floyd’s death, which comes on top of a massive public health challenge dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gallup said 39% of Americans approved of Mr. Trump’s job performance, down from 49% last month. The president’s approval rating fell significantly among all party groups — 7 percentage points each among Republicans (to 85%) and independents (to 39%), and nine points among Democrats (to 5%).

Americans’ satisfaction with the way things are going in the U.S. has dropped 25 percentage points, to 20%, in the past four months, Gallup said. The decline came in two waves, after the coronavirus spread across the country, and after the death of Floyd.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll found that 39% approve of Mr. Trump’s job performance and 58% disapprove. The survey found a 4-point increase since January in the percentage of voters who agree that Mr. Trump is racist (54%); 37% disagree.

The president summoned the press late Wednesday, after a House Judiciary Committee hearing on police brutality, to an unscheduled meeting in the Cabinet room with several black leaders, including Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.

Mr. Trump defended his administration’s achievements for blacks, including historic funding increases for black colleges and universities, criminal justice reform in 2018 and the creation of “opportunity zones” to encourage investment in distressed communities.

“We’ve done a lot for the black community, and we’ve done a lot for all communities,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Carson, the Cabinet’s only black member, said the meeting was called “to talk about some of the concerns in the black community that have arisen to a point that people all around the world are making their voices heard.”

“Your philosophy, of course, has been that a rising tide floats all boats,” Mr. Carson told the president. “That’s why you don’t spend a lot of time with identity politics. We want everybody to be successful.”

Sonnie Johnson, a radio host on Sirius XM, said the black community “is not doing OK” on issues such as education because of decades of local control by Democrats.

“All of these things have been under Democratic control for 60 years,” she told the president. “The only choice we get is ‘left’ or ‘further-left.’”

Pastor Darrell Scott of Cleveland, a member of Mr. Trump’s reelection team, said the coronavirus-related shutdowns interrupted some of the administration’s agenda.

“Our nation is at a juncture where we’re facing another challenge, but this administration has become used to challenges,” Mr. Scott said. “We pressed ‘pause,’ but we’re ready to press ‘play’ now and continue in the positive initiatives regarding the black community.”

Hill debate

Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Scott testified in a House Judiciary Committee hearing on police practices and criticized proposals by some leading Democrats and city leaders to “defund” police departments. He said Cleveland cut its police budget more than 15 years ago and residents paid the price in higher crime rates.

“The prospect of defunding and or dismantling police forces across the country is one of the most unwise, irresponsible proposals by American politicians in our nation’s history and makes absolutely no sense at all,” Mr. Scott said. “It is nothing short of the politicizing of current social events in the effort to garner votes during this election season. I also believe that it’s a reactionary measure that can and will result in short- and long-term damage to American society, particularly in our inner city and urban communities.”

The president, too, opposes the movement to defund police departments. But the White House’s comments Wednesday about an executive order on police practices was the first time aides raised that possibility.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and presidential advisers Jared Kushner and Ja’Ron Smith met with Sen. Tim Scott, the South Carolina Republican who is crafting Senate legislation on police practices. Ms. McEnany called the meeting “very productive.”

House Democrats have released their own sweeping proposal for overhauling police departments and outlawing some law enforcement tactics.

At a meeting with law enforcement officials at the White House this week, the president and Attorney General William Barr heard proposals for enhanced training of police around the nation.

Tony Childress, sheriff of Livingston County, Illinois, urged the administration to adopt mandatory “de-escalation training” for all officers; prohibit all physical restraint maneuvers on a person’s neck or head; require officers to render medical aid to all people; and require officers to intervene “when physical forces are being … inappropriately applied and [are] no longer required.”

The president said the administration is exploring ideas about “how we can do [policing] if possible, in a much more gentle fashion.”

The president and his aides have pushed back hard against police reform proposals and anti-police rhetoric that they say goes too far. The White House pointed to a plea from New York Police Benevolent Association President Mike O’Meara, who criticized legislators and the media for “vilifying” cops as “animals and thugs.”

“When you have a sitting congresswoman, Ilhan Omar, calling cops ‘cancer,’ what do you think that leads to?” Ms. McEnany said, citing the shooting of an officer at the Paso Robles, California, police department on Wednesday. “Let’s not vilify our officers. Let’s recognize injustice where we see it, but recognize all of us here are safe because of our police officers doing their job, each and every day.”

Ms. Omar, Minnesota Democrat, said this week, “The Minneapolis Police Department is rotten to the root, and so when we dismantle it, we get rid of that cancer, and we allow for something beautiful to rise, and that reimagining allows us to figure out what public safety looks like for us.”

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