Trump to supporters: Don't confront rioters ... we're investigating their national conspiracy as we speak

What do you get when you mix in some good advice, add a pinch or two of “conspiracy theory,” and promise it will all bake up well in the future? You get Donald Trump’s interview with Laura Ingraham on Fox News last night, in which the president discussed the election, the cities, and the riots. Ingraham pointed out that one of Trump’s supporters got murdered challenging protesters in the streets, to which Trump offered the good advice — leave it to the police.

This came in response to an accusation from Joe Biden that Trump won’t tell his supporters to stop escalating violence on the streets. Who’s doing the escalating, Trump asked:

Host Laura Ingraham asked, [relevant exchange begins around 5:00] “[D]o you want your supporters to confront the left-wing protesters, or do you want to leave it to law enforcement?”

Trump responded, “No. No, I don’t want them. I want to leave it to law enforcement. But my supporters are wonderful, hard-working, tremendous people. And they turn on their television set, and they look at a Portland, or they look at a Kenosha, before I got involved and stopped it, or they look at Chicago, where 78 people were shot last weekend and numerous people died, or they look at New York, where violence is up by like, what? 150%. … They’re looking at all of this, and they can’t believe it.”

He added, “It’s a peaceful protest. I mean, they were protesting. They weren’t — you know, it’s amazing, they want to protest, and they get criticized.”

This isn’t exactly a tough interview, but Trump does pretty well … for the most part. Ingraham found herself on the back foot when Trump veered suddenly into what she herself called “conspiracy theory” territory when Trump claimed that a plane of “thugs” was touring American cities to instigate riots [starting around the 17:30 mark below]:

As the nation grapples with volatile protests, President Trump on Monday night claimed in a Fox News interview that “people that are in the dark shadows” are “controlling the streets” and manipulating his Democratic opponent Joe Biden to sow chaos. …

The Fox News host then asked who the president believed was pulling the strings. Trump replied, “People that you’ve never heard of. People that are in the dark shadows.”

“What does that mean?” Ingraham asked. “That sounds like conspiracy theory. Dark shadows — what is that?”

“No, they’re people that you haven’t heard of,” Trump continued. “They’re people that are on the streets, people that are controlling the streets.”

Trump then described a plane “from a certain city this weekend, and on the plane it was almost completely loaded with thugs wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms with gear.” Ingraham asked where the plane was coming from, but the president demurred.

“I’ll tell you sometime,” he said. “It’s under investigation right now.”

Prediction: Trump won’t tell us “sometime,” or any time. This sounds like the kind of rumor that Trump likes to retweet. That’s not to say there isn’t any organization behind the riots and destruction, but a plane tour would be one of the more foolish methods of organizing — especially in a pandemic, when such activity would stand out like a sore thumb. These kinds of organizations use isolated cells and remote communication for their organizing efforts, not airplanes with their leadership all in one place. Come on, man.

Otherwise, though, Trump does pretty well in a low-challenge environment. He’s sticking with the law-and-order message, which is the best argument Trump and the GOP have in 2020. Unlike the 2018 midterms, it appears that Trump won’t get distracted by immigration messaging and other low-concern issues. Trump emphasizes the law-and-order issue in relation to women, the suburbs, and African-American communities, which is the best pressure point against Democrats that the GOP has had in decades. Trump also contrasted his criminal-justice reform with Joe Biden’s 1994 crime bill and his campaigning for it, when Biden insisted on targeting “super predators.” He also defended police, for the most part, although Trump did question whether police “choke” under pressure and resort to firearms too often.

There’s plenty of red meat in the full interview with Trump and Ingraham. The Green New Deal discussion is especially amusing, which Trump said comes from “the mind of a child.” Trump also says New York City needs “a younger version of Rudy Giuliani” to clean up the city, but that probably won’t happen without a decade or more of David Dinkins-esque governance. Be sure to stick around to the 30-minute mark when he goes after Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 response, too.