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The following are excerpts from a news report by Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, dated May 31, 2020, under the headline "As Protests and Violence Spill Over, Trump Shrinks Back".|
WASHINGTON — Inside the White House, the mood was bristling with tension. Hundreds of protesters were gathering outside the gates, shouting curses at President Trump and in some cases throwing bricks and bottles. Nervous for his safety, Secret Service agents abruptly rushed the president to the underground bunker used in the past during terrorist attacks.
The scene on Friday night, described by a person with firsthand knowledge, kicked off an uneasy weekend at the White House as demonstrations spread after the brutal death of a black man in police custody under a white officer’s knee. While in the end officials said they were never really in danger, Mr. Trump and his family have been rattled by protests near the Executive Mansion that turned violent for a third night on Sunday....
Mr. Trump remained cloistered inside, periodically sending out Twitter messages like “LAW & ORDER!” until the evening, when he went quiet. While some aides urged him to keep off Twitter, Mr. Trump could not resist blasting out a string of messages earlier in the day berating Democrats for not being tough enough and attributing the turmoil to radical leftists.
“Get tough Democrat Mayors and Governors,” he wrote. Referring to his presumptive Democratic presidential opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., he added: “These people are ANARCHISTS. Call in our National Guard NOW. The World is watching and laughing at you and Sleepy Joe. Is this what America wants? NO!!!”
The president said his administration “will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization,” referring to the shorthand for “anti-fascist,” and scheduled a meeting with Attorney General William P. Barr for Monday morning. But antifa is a movement of activists who dress in black and have used tactics similar to those of anarchists, not an organization with a clear structure that can be penalized under law. Moreover, American law applies terrorist designations to foreign entities, not domestic groups.
By targeting antifa, however, Mr. Trump effectively paints all the protests with the brush of violent radicalism without addressing the underlying conditions that have driven many people to the streets. Demonstrations have broken out in at least 75 cities in recent days, with governors and mayors deploying the National Guard or imposing curfews on a scale not seen since the aftermath of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.
While Mr. Trump has been a focus of anger, particularly among the crowds in Washington, aides repeatedly have tried to explain to him that the protests were not only about him, but about broader, systemic issues related to race, according to several people familiar with the discussions. Privately, advisers complained about his tweets, acknowledging that they were pouring fuel on an already incendiary situation.
“Those are not constructive tweets, without any question,” Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate, said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’m thankful that we can have the conversation. We don’t always agree on any of his tweets beforehand, but we have the ability to sit down and dialogue on how we move this nation forward.”
Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor and supporter of Mr. Trump, said the president, with election looming in five months, is focused on catering to his core supporters rather than the nation at large. “Trump is far more divisive than past presidents,” Mr. Eberhart said. “His strength is stirring up his base, not calming the waters.”....
Mr. Trump and his team seemed taken off guard by the protests that materialized outside the White House on Friday night. Hundreds of people surged toward the White House as Secret Service and United States Park Police officers sought to block them. Bricks and bottles were thrown, and the police responded with pepper spray. At one point, an official said, a barricade near the Treasury Department next door to the White House was penetrated....
The bunker has not been used much, if at all, since those early days of the war on terrorism, but it has been hardened to withstand the force of a passenger jet crashing into the mansion above.
The president and his family were rattled by their experience on Friday night, according to several advisers.
After his evening in the bunker, Mr. Trump emerged on Saturday morning to boast that he never felt unsafe and vow to sic “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons” on intruders. Melania Trump opted not to travel to Florida for the rocket launch....
Graffiti was spray-painted for blocks, including on the historic Decatur House a block from the White House: “Why do we have to keep telling you black lives matter?” (End excerpts)