Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to retired and active law enforcement personnel at a Fraternal Order of Police lodge during a campaign stop in Statesville, N.C. on Aug. 18, 2016.
Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP

Why Trump’s pro-law-enforcement posture makes so little sense

Updated

Donald Trump was in Orlando this afternoon, where the president was eager to present himself as the best friend cops could ever ask for – unlike his political enemies.

Four weeks before the mid-term elections, President Donald Trump portrayed Democrats as “anti-police” at an official speech to a police chiefs association in Orlando, Fla., Monday using language similar to that at his recent campaign rallies.

“For too many years, we have watched politicians escalate political attacks on our courageous police officers and I’ve never seen it more than over the last few years – it’s disgraceful,” Trump said, alluding to Democrats. “Politicians who spread this dangerous anti-police sentiment make life easier for criminals and more dangerous for law-abiding citizens, and they also make it more dangerous for police, and it must stop, and it must stop now.”

There’s no modern precedent for an American leader to try to divide the nation quite this aggressively, telling police chiefs that Republicans are good and Democrats are bad. If anyone could be credibly accused of using “disgraceful” rhetoric in this area, it’s Trump.

Honoring police chiefs and thanking them for their service and sacrifices is one thing; trying to politicize local law enforcement as part of a partisan election-year scheme is something else entirely.

That this came from a president who’s already the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation, who’s been credibly accused of benefiting from years’ worth of alleged tax fraud, and who’s seen several members of his political operation arrested and convicted adds a nice touch of irony to today’s event.

Making matters worse, of course, is Trump boasting about his bonds with the police after he’s proposed deep federal budget cuts for police departments nationwide – a detail that he apparently forgot to mention during today’s remarks.

But that’s not even the most jarring aspect of Trump’s posturing. This is, after all, the same president who said a few weeks ago that he sees his conflict with the FBI as one of his “crowning achievements.” Trump added at the time that he sees some leaders who’ve served in federal law enforcement as “a cancer in our country.”

Trump sees local cops as his pals, while at the same time, Trump sees federal law enforcement as an enemy that must be subdued and defeated.

As we discussed a few months ago, the Republican has, for example, referred to the “Department of ‘Justice’ ” – as if he believes the DOJ’s commitment to justice is in doubt – as “an embarrassment to our country!”

Earlier this year, the president insisted that the FBI’s reputation is “in tatters” and is now the “worst in history.” Soon after, he added, “The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process.”

A month later, Trump went after the bureau again, calling it “disgraceful” that Attorney General Jeff Sessions hasn’t done more to investigate the FBI.

It’s the same president who fired dozens of U.S. attorneys under unusual circumstances. And then fired an FBI director. And a deputy FBI director. And an acting attorney general. And dozens of federal prosecutors.

Trump has attacked federal law enforcement with conspiracy theories. He’s attacked common law-enforcement tools. He’s undermined the judicial system by abusing his pardon powers. He’s urged law enforcement to enforce his political vendettas and help Republicans win elections.

The president who delivered self-righteous rhetoric this morning about his disgust for those who criticize law enforcement has spent the better part of his term lashing out at law enforcement and the rule of the law.

It’s spread to Trump’s GOP, too. The Washington Post noted several months ago that much of the Republican leadership has “become an adversary of federal law enforcement,” with the FBI and the Justice Department “under concerted assault” by GOP officials. Politico added that the right has “learned to hate the FBI,” which in turn has “upended the longstanding norms of Washington.”

And yet, there was Trump this morning, attacking his opponents for being insufficiently deferential toward law enforcement.

When Trump defends “our great law enforcement,” it’s important to understand that his support comes with a caveat: he’s not including the law enforcement officials and agencies that are investigating him.

Donald Trump

Why Trump's pro-law-enforcement posture makes so little sense

Updated