During his first presidential debate with former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday night, President Donald Trump doubled down on his “law and order” message — accusing Biden of being soft on Antifa and railing against anti-racism protesters. But Biden has emphatically stressed that he condemns political violence whether it is coming from the left or the right.
And Trump’s recent comments on “law and order” have been full of contradictions, as the so-called “law and order president” has encouraged his supporters to break the law.
Here are five ways in which Trump has encouraged or condoned illegal acts.
1. Trump encouraged voter intimidation: Nevada attorney general
During the debate, Trump claimed that Democrats will try to steal the election and stressed, “I am urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully.” But Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford was highly critical of Trump’s remarks, warning that he is encouraging voter intimidation — which is a serious crime.
Ford tweeted, “Trump also told ‘his supporters’ to ‘go into the polls and watch very carefully.’ But he wasn’t talking about poll watching. He was talking about voter intimidation. FYI — voter intimidation is illegal in Nevada. Believe me when I say it: You do it, and you will be prosecuted.”
2. Trump encouraged North Carolina residents to vote twice
Trump has repeatedly made the baseless claim that mail-in voting encourages voter fraud. Earlier this month, during a visit to North Carolina, Trump said that one way his supporters could prove his point is by voting by mail and later, try voting in person on Election Day — which, of course, is flat-out illegal.
Trump told reporters, “So, let them send it in, and let them go vote. And if their system is as good as they say it is, then obviously, they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they will be able to vote.”
Trump’s critics, in response, pointed out how terrible his suggestion was. On September 3, Laurence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard University, tweeted, “‘I was just testing whether this state can detect voter fraud when I showed up to vote a second time’ is about as good a defense as: ‘I broke into the bank just to test whether it has a good alarm system.'”
3. Trump urged a violent hate group to ‘stand back and stand by’
During Tuesday night’s debate, Trump insisted that all of the violence at recent protests has been coming from left-wing groups — not from far-right white supremacists and white nationalists. The debate moderator, Fox News’ Chris Wallace, gave Trump every opportunity to condemn white nationalist violence; instead, Trump expressed his solidarity with the Proud Boys — a far-right white nationalist group that openly promotes violence — and told them, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”
The Proud Boys were delighted to hear him say that. Joe Biggs, a Proud Boys organizer, believed that Trump was inciting violence and wrote that he would be glad to follow his advice. Biggs posted, “Trump basically said to go fuck them up! This makes me so happy.” And Biggs also wrote, “President Trump told the proud boys to stand by because someone needs to deal with ANTIFA…well sir! we’re ready!!”
4. Trump applauded a 17-year-old vigilante
Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old vigilante who, in August, went to an anti-racism protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin carrying an AR-15, is facing multiple homicide charges. Trump, instead of calling Rittenhouse out, is painting him as a concerned citizen who acted in self-defense.
Trump said of Rittenhouse’s actions in Kenosha, “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 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 — probably would have been killed, but it’s under investigation.”
Trump, however, didn’t have a problem with the fact that a teenager was walking around with an AR-15.
5. Trump condoned use of paintballs against Black Lives Matters protesters
In late August in Portland, Oregon, a caravan of Trump supporters showed up at an anti-racism protest and attacked Black Lives Matter activists with paintballs and pepper spray — which was clearly an assault. But Trump didn’t see it that way.
New York Times reporter Mike Baker, on August 30, tweeted some video of the events in Portland and posted, “Clashes. Trump people unload paintballs and pepper spray. They shot me too” — and Trump, in response to Baker’s tweet, posted, “The big backlash going on in Portland cannot be unexpected after 95 days of watching an incompetent Mayor admit that he has no idea what he is doing. The people of Portland won’t put up with no safety any longer. The Mayor is a FOOL. Bring in the National Guard!”
Later, during an appearance on Fox News, Trump discussed the events in Portland and told Laura Ingraham, “I want to leave it to law enforcement. But my supporters are wonderful, hardworking, tremendous people.”
Trump, at the White House, even described his paintball-firing supporters in Portland as “peaceful,” saying, “Well, I understand that had large numbers of people that were supporters, but that was a peaceful protest. And paint is not — and paint as a defensive mechanism, paint is not bullets.… These people, they protested peacefully. They went in very peacefully.”