President Donald Trump on Monday appeared to defend accused 17-year-old gunman Kyle Rittenhouse, suggesting that he acted in self-defense when he shot three people, killing two, who were protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse — who traveled to the city with an AR-15-style rifle from Antioch, Illinois, which is approximately 20 miles away — has been charged with five felonies and a misdemeanor.
Trump defends Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old supporter of his who is charged with murdering two protesters in Kenosha pic.twitter.com/KdfkdTPRVG— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 31, 2020
Asked by a reporter if he would condemn Rittenhouse's actions during a White House news conference, the president, referring to cellphone footage of the shooting, suggested that the protesters were the instigators and Rittenhouse was simply defending himself. He claimed that the teen "was trying to get away from them" and protesters "violently attacked him" after he tripped and fell. Trump, on multiple occasions, noted that the shooting was “under investigation,” though he still seemed to take the stance that Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense, stating that he "probably would've been killed" if he had not fired his weapon.
According to a criminal complaint, Joseph Rosenbaum, one of the victims of the shooting, threw a plastic bag at Rittenhouse and tried to grab his gun. Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum several times. A group of protesters then chased after the teen, identifying him to authorities as the shooter. Among them was Anthony Huber, who was carrying a skateboard in one hand and attempted to grab the gun with the other. Huber, 26, was shot and killed. One other person was shot but is expected to survive.
The president's Monday remarks marked the first time he has addressed Rittenhouse's actions. According to Politico, the White House had previously avoided commenting on the incident, saying that there is not enough information on his case. Trump, meanwhile, has focused his attention on condemning the protests occurring in Kenosha and has criticized Democrats for not condemning looting and rioting, despite Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden condemning such things on multiple occasions, including an address on Monday.
Trump's comments also came on the eve of his visit to Kenosha. The president is scheduled to visit the city Tuesday, though his presence has been advised against by some state local officials who have warned that his visit could lead to further unrest.