When President Donald Trump visits Kenosha, Wisconsin, later today, he’ll do so without meeting with the family of Jacob Blake, the 29-year-old Black man who was shot in the back by Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey, setting off days of furious protests.
Asked by reporters during a Monday briefing at the White House why he wasn’t meeting with Blake’s family, Trump blamed it on the family’s desire to have a lawyer present if they met. “I thought it would be better not to do anything where there are lawyers involved,” Trump said.
“They wanted me to speak,” Trump claimed, “but they wanted to have lawyers involved, and I thought that was inappropriate, so I didn’t do that. But I did speak with the pastor of the family, who is a fine man, a wonderful man. And I think we had a great talk.”
Blake Sr. responded to Trump’s comments in an interview with CNN. “First of all, I’m not going to play politics. This is my son’s life we’re talking about,” Blake Sr. said.
“I don’t know who he talked to. Furthermore I don’t care who he talked to,” Blake Sr. added. “If he didn’t talk to [attorney] Benjamin Crump… there’s nothing to talk about.” (Crump later clarified that Trump spoke with Blake Jr.’s mother’s pastor.)
Crump, who was also present during the CNN interview, called Trump’s reasoning “mind-boggling.”
“While they’re concentrating on their son’s life, they want us to concentrate to fight for justice,” Crump said. “And last I checked, Jim, we have a Department of Justice investigation going on. So it would be most appropriate to have your counsel on the phone when you’re talking to anybody involved in the government that would determine whether those individuals would be held accountable for shooting your son seven times in the back in front of your three grandchildren.”
Blake Jr. is currently recovering from his injuries at a Milwaukee-area hospital. Sheskey and two other officers who were involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave while the Wisconsin Department of Justice investigates.
The White House has said that Trump will meet with local law enforcement while he visits Kenosha today. “We have to give our cops back, our police back their dignity, their respect,” Trump said Monday. “They’re very talented people. They’re strong. They’re tough. They can do the job, but we’ve taken it away.”
Over the weekend, Wisconsin officials including Gov. Tony Evers and Mayor John Antaramian criticized Trump’s decision to visit. “The city was on fire and we need healing, not a barrel of gasoline rolling in,” Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, the state’s highest-ranking Black official, said in a tweet.
Trump is already proving Barnes right: During his Monday evening White House briefing, he defended Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old vigilante who allegedly shot and killed two protesters and injured a third last Tuesday during the Kenosha protests, and heavily implied Rittenhouse acted in self-defense. “He was in very big trouble,” Trump said. “He probably would have been killed.”
Later, in an interview with Fox News, Trump asked why Sheskey didn’t do “something different,” such as wrestling Blake, but then compared Sheskey’s decision to shoot Blake in the back seven times from point-blank range to making a golf shot. “In the meantime, he could have been going for a weapon and, you know, there's a whole big thing there, but in the meantime, they choke. Just like in a golf tournament, they miss a 3-foot putt,” Trump said.
Asked if he had anything he would want to say to the president, Blake Sr. said no.
“I’m dealing with my son,” he said. “And we’re not playing with politics.”
Cover: Jacob Blake's father, Jacob Blake Sr., wears a Justice for Jacob mask at a rally Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)