His record shows an uglier pattern: He supports cops when they target people of color. He opposes cops when they target him and his friends.
In 1989, five black and Latino teenagers were arrested for a horrific rape in New York. Trump responded with a full-page newspaper ad that demanded, “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE!” Trump insisted that the teens were guilty, even after they were exonerated. In 2012, he endorsed police surveillance of American Muslims. In 2014, when President Barack Obama spoke about the killing of Eric Garner, Trump tweeted, “Obama now wants to deny due process to the police.” In 2015, when violence erupted over the death of Freddie Gray, Trump jeered: “Our great African American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore!”
As president, Trump stayed on this theme. His inaugural address depicted an “American carnage” of “crime and gangs and drugs.” He praised police, especially when they battled MS-13, a Latino gang. He told officers not to worry about protecting suspects from injury during arrests. All along, he assumed that law enforcement was on his side. He bragged that “the cops,” like “the plumbers” and “the truck drivers,” were “the people that like me best.”
But not every cop was smitten by Trump. In 2017, then–FBI Director James Comey refused to clear the president and his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, in the Russia investigation.