Former President Donald Trump said Kyle Rittenhouse visited his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida days after a jury in Wisconsin found the teen not guilty of charges related to shootings that killed two persons and injured a third during racially charged unrest in Kenosha last summer.
The ex-president, speaking to Fox News’ Sean Hannity, called the 18-year-old a “really a nice young man” and said he visited with his mother.
“He wanted to know if he could come over and say hello because he was a fan,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Rittenhouse was acquitted of intentional homicide and other charges after the jury concluded he had acted in self-defense in shooting and killing Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and injuring Gaige Grosskreutz, who is now 27.
Mr. Rittenhouse traveled from his home in Illinois when he was 17 and joined armed civilians who said they wanted to protect Kenosha businesses from looting amid violent protests over Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot and severely injured by officers who believed he was about to stab them with a knife during a police call in August 2020. All three men Mr. Rittenhouse shot were White.
“He should never have been put through that,” Mr. Trump said after the Monday visit. “That was prosecutorial misconduct, and it’s happening all over the United States right now with the Democrats.”
President Biden said last week the jury’s decision will “leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included,” but added the jury’s decision must be acknowledged.
“I stand by what the jury has concluded,” he told reporters. “The jury system works and we have to abide by it.”
The Rittenhouse trial has been seen as a kind of inkblot test for the political divide in America.
Liberal voices said the fact that a teenager strapped on a high-powered firearm and took to the streets in another state underscored a problem with gun violence and vigilantism.
Mr. Trump and his GOP allies said the teenager was a victim of overzealous prosecutors and mainstream media that swiftly condemned him but not rioters who destroyed businesses during the 2020 unrest.
The former president’s allies in Congress, including Reps. Paul Gosar of Arizona and Matt Gaetz of Florida, are jockeying to bring Mr. Rittenhouse in as a Capitol Hill intern.
Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado picked a friendly fight with Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina over who would employ Mr. Rittenhouse, though it took an awkward turn.
“Madison Cawthorn, he said that he would arm wrestle me for this Kyle Rittenhouse internship. But Madison Cawthorn has some pretty big guns, and so I would like to challenge him to a sprint instead,” Ms. Boebert told Newsmax. “Let’s make this fair.”
The comments raised eyebrows because Mr. Cawthorn is partially paralyzed and uses a wheelchair.
“What,” tweeted Rep. Adam Kinzinger, Illinois Republican who has fought the Trump wing of the party.
Correction: An earlier version of this report suggested Mr. Blake‘s condition following the shooting. He survived but was severely injured.