New year, same old Trump.
Fresh off a guilty verdict that found the former president liable for sexual battery and defamation, Donald Trump used a town hall event hosted by CNN Wednesday night to unleash a familiar-sounding racist diatribe about the Capitol Police officer who killed Ashli Babbitt.
The Republican presidential candidate, who has also recently been charged with more than two dozen felony counts centered on alleged hush money he’s accused of paying adult film actress Stormy Daniels, wasted no time reminding viewers that he harbors implicit bias toward Black people during the town hall.
(He also flexed his misogynistic muscles, but more on that later.)
Trump has billed himself as pro-police and previously called himself the “law and order president,” but he still vilified Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd, a Black man, for doing his job.
When CNN’s Kaitlan Collins turned the conversation to Jan. 6 and why it took so long for Trump to address his supporters who illegally stormed the Capitol in an unsuccessful effort to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s election, the racist dog-whistling language ensued.
Collins mentioned that “over 140 officers were injured that day,” but Trump was more concerned with Babbitt, an active participant in the Capitol riots who attended it in part because she embraced the far-right QAnon group that pushed the definitively debunked “big lie” conspiracy theory that Joe Biden won the 2020 election because of voter fraud.
“A person named Ashli Babbitt was killed,” Trump responded, ignoring the circumstances under which Byrd shot her to death in the Capitol, later adding, “That thug who killed her, there was no reason to shoot her.”
Trump continued revising history: “He went on television to brag about the fact he killed her.”
Collins quickly corrected Trump, but as history has demonstrated, the truth rarely if ever matters to the former president, who described Babbitt in terms of martyrdom and Byrd as a villain.
To be sure, Byrd was anything but boastful during a television appearance in 2021 when he recounted his confrontation with Babbitt.
In an interview with NBC News, Byrd explained to Lester Holt that he and a few other officers set up furniture to block the door to the room where 60 to 80 House members were being kept safe from the pack of wild MAGA enthusiasts who were attacking the Capitol.
“Once we barricaded the doors, we were essentially trapped where we were,” Byrd said. “There was no way to retreat. No other way to get out. If they get through that door, they’re into the House chamber and upon the members of Congress.”
Byrd said he shouted at rioters several times for them to back away from the glass door they were smashing to get into the barricaded area. Video footage shows Babbitt’s final moments alive as she is seen wearing a Trump flag around her neck like a cape and yelling “Go! Go!” as two men try to lift her up and through the door’s broken glass.
When Babbitt refused to obey Byrd’s commands to stop, he shot her.
“I tried to wait as long as I could,” Byrd told Holt. “I hoped and prayed no one tried to enter through those doors. But their failure to comply required me to take the appropriate action to save the lives of members of Congress and myself and my fellow officers.”
It’s unclear whether Trump has used the racially loaded word “thug” to describe any of the dozens of white police officers who have shot unarmed Black people suspected of doing far less than violently breaking down a door in the U.S. Capitol in an effort to access members of Congress. And by “unclear,” this writer means highly doubtful.
Byrd said he was certain he did nothing wrong that day. He said that the way the furniture was stacked up to block the way inside made it “impossible for me to see what was on the other side.”
All he said he could see was Babbitt trying to climb through the broken glass.
“I could not fully see her hands or what was in the backpack or what the intentions are,” Byrd said. “But they had shown violence leading up to that point.”
Byrd said he feels that, at the end of the day, he did much more good than harm in protecting Congress members from Babbitt and the other rioters.
“I know that day I saved countless lives,” Byrd told Holt. “I know members of Congress, as well as my fellow officers and staff, were in jeopardy and in serious danger. And that’s my job.”
The Department of Justice closed the investigation into Babbitt’s shooting without bringing any charges against Byrd. “The investigation revealed no evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer willfully committed a violation,” the DOJ said in a press release, effectively vindicating Byrd.
It was in that context that Trump, the so-called “law and order president” who supports the pro-police “back the blue” movement, called Byrd a “thug.”
This is America.
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