As he touted surprising new jobless numbers showing unemployment had improved in May despite getting worse as predicted, President Donald Trump on Friday said he hoped George Floyd was “looking down” from heaven “and saying, ‘This is a great thing happening for our country.’”
He said a strong economy was key to improving racial tensions.
“This is a great day for him, this is a great day for everybody,” he said. “This is great day for everybody. This is a great, great day in terms of equality,” he said at a Rose Garden news conference, referring to the African American man killed in Minneapolis police custody, triggering more than a week of nationwide protests.
"It's really what our Constitution requires, and it's what our country is all about," he said.
Trump made the comment after saying governors should use the National Guard to “dominate the streets” and, turning to scripted remarks, saying that “every American receives equal treatment in every encounter with law enforcement regardless of race, color, gender, or creed.”
“You have to dominate the streets," Trump said. "You can’t let what’s happening happen. It’s called dominate the streets. You can’t let that happen in New York, where they’re breaking into stores.”
Immediately after, he called for "equal justice under the law."
"Equal justice under the law must mean that every American receives equal treatment in every encounter with law enforcement regardless of race, color, gender, creed, they have to receive fair treatment from law enforcement, they have to receive it," Trump said.
As he sat down to sign into law revisions to the Paycheck Protection Act lending program for small businesses, giving them more time and flexibility in spending their government loans, he refused to answer shouted questions from reporters about how a better economy would have protected George Floyd and why he hadn't put out a plan to deal with systemic racism.
The president put his finger to his lips, in a motion to shush the reporter, Yamiche Alcindor of PBS, who is African American.
“I’d like to sign this bill,” the president said. "By the way, what's happened to our country and what you now see, it’s been happening, is the greatest thing that can happen for race relations, for the African American community, the Asian American, the Hispanic American, for women, for everything."
“What’s your plan?” Alcindor asked.
“Our country is so strong, and that’s my plan,” Trump said, “We’re going to have the strongest economy in the world.”
As he sought to silence further questions, Alcindor tried again.
“Black unemployment went up by .1%. Asian American unemployment went up .5%. How is that a victory?” she asked.
“You are something,” Trump said to her.
The unemployment rate in May dropped to 13.3% even though many economists had predicted it could rise to as high as 20%.
Regarding George Floyd protests outside the White House, Trump said, "The Secret Service was incredible. All I could see was what I saw on television."
"There was never any form of like, 'Oh gee, this sounds dangerous,'" he said, possibly referring to his denial that he had been whisked to an underground White House bunker at one point, as multiple sources have confirmed to ABC News.