Trump defends supporters accused in deadly clashes
US President Donald Trump has defended supporters for their alleged roles in recent deadly street clashes.
He suggested a teen accused of killing two in Wisconsin last week and Trump fans involved in clashes in Oregon on Saturday had acted in self-defence.
He said Joe Biden, his Democratic challenger in the 3 November election, had not specifically disavowed far-left activists accused of civil disorder.
The violence has come amid widespread, largely peaceful anti-racism protests.
Mr Biden, leading in opinion polls ahead of the election, has spoken out against violence, accusing Mr Trump of causing the divisions that have stoked it.
‘Paint is not bullets’
At Monday’s White House news conference, Mr Trump blamed Mr Biden and his allies for violence in cities run by Democratic mayors and governors.
A CNN reporter asked the Republican president whether he would condemn Trump supporters who had fired paint pellets during a confrontation with counter-protesters at the weekend in Portland, Oregon.
In the ensuing street clashes, Aaron Danielson – a member of a far right group, Patriot Prayer – was killed by a suspect who has reportedly described himself as a member of antifa, a network of mainly far-left activists.
Mr Trump described the protest as “peaceful” and said paint was “a defensive mechanism, paint is not bullets”.
He told the reporter: “Your supporters, and they are your supporters indeed, shot a young gentleman who – and killed him, not with paint but with a bullet. And I think it’s disgraceful.”
Another reporter asked Mr Trump whether he would condemn a shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, allegedly by a teenager once pictured at one of the president’s rallies.
Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, is accused of shooting three people, two fatally, last week amid demonstrations in the city over the police shooting of an African American man, Jacob Blake.
“We’re looking at all of that,” Mr Trump said in his first public comments about the suspect who was seen on video being pursued down a street and firing a weapon.
“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.
“I guess he was in very big trouble, he probably would have been killed.”
Two Democratic congressmen pilloried Mr Trump for the remarks. Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts tweeted: “This is the United States President justifying a double murder by a white man illegally carrying an assault rifle across state lines.”
Kyle Rittenhouse, who was charged as an adult, has not yet been brought to trial.
Representative Eric Swalwell of California tweeted that the president had just made Republicans “the Mass Shooter Party”.