Trump: The concept of police chokeholds sounds “so innocent, so perfect,” but I support banning them generally

The awkward phrasing here has attracted some attention on political Twitter this afternoon, especially given the president’s penchant for defending police and his occasional half-joking encouragement to them to be a little rougher with suspects than they need to be. But he’s getting a bad rap. In context it’s clear enough what he means.

Watch the clip below. I think Benjy Sarlin has it exactly right:

Trump’s saying (or trying to say) that banning chokeholds sounds simple and straightforward until you consider a scenario in which a cop has to take a suspect into custody who’s resisting arrest and maybe too large to overpower. If there are multiple cops available to help subdue him then there’s no excuse for trying to choke the man out. But if it’s one on one, the rules might bend a bit. What he’s doing here is distinguishing what happened to George Floyd, who was choked to death despite being handcuffed and surrounded by four officers, from a hypothetical in which a solo arrest has to be made. Although those situations would be rare, Trump seems to allow.

It’ll be interesting to see what the final federal bill on banning chokeholds looks like, whether it contains some sort of exception for the scenario Trump describes. But his support for a ban is broadly popular:

This exchange from the same interview with Fox News’s Harris Faulkner also raised some eyebrows. It’s … not quite as clear what he’s going for here:

“Well, we are free, Mr. President” is a great little understated way to puncture the balloon he was trying to blow up.

What did he mean, though, by the “end result” being “questionable”? Lefties are of course putting the worst possible spin on it but I think he was referring to Lincoln’s assassination. He’s saying that freeing the slaves was righteous but controversial (i.e. “questionable”), enough so that ol’ Abe paid the ultimate price for doing it. So maybe he’s saying, “I’ve done the most for black Americans that a president can reasonably do without getting shot”? I don’t know.

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