Where do lawmakers stand on Trump’s response to nationwide Black Lives Matter protests?

As the country reels from the police killings of black Americans and thousands protest across the nation, lawmakers have been divided in their response. POLITICO examined how members of Congress facing tight reelection bids are responding.

Using POLITICO’s election forecast tool, we identified 78 lawmakers in the most competitive races — contests where it’s not clear whether having President Donald Trump at the top of the GOP ticket will be a boon or burden. Then, we combed through these lawmakers’ social media posts, websites and interviews and pulled their statements.

All but one — Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) — have publicly condemned George Floyd’s death or made calls to hold the police officers accountable. Twenty-nine lawmakers focused on the protests, and 42 assessed Trump’s response. Not surprisingly, party loyalty often determined reactions, with Democrats mostly condemning Trump’s response and Republicans more likely to denounce violence and looting.

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Who's condemning Trump's response to protests?

"It was painful to watch peaceful protesters be subjected to tear gas in order for the president to go across the street to a church that I believe he’s attended only once. I thought that the president came across as unsympathetic and as insensitive to the rights of people to peaceful protest."

Rep. Gil Cisneros | CA-39 Democrat

"The right words at the right time can make a real difference, and instead, the President is behaving like a third world military leader, not the leader of the free world.”

"It seemed to confirm that the President and senior Pentagon leadership are willing to use the military to further their political objectives. That they are willing to weaponize one sacred, American institution against another."

"The very notion of using our military to quell peaceful protests, a linchpin of our democracy, offends me. When I entered the military, I didn’t take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution to then turn around and use rubber bullets and tear gas on peaceful protestors."

"As a former federal prosecutor, I would like to share my thoughts about 'law and order.' President Trump is bad at it."

"The President['s] remarks last night failed to unify the country. In order to heal and reform our nation, we must pause, end the violence and begin to work constructively towards making productive and meaningful change."

"The President put protesters, soldiers, law enforcement, and journalists all at-risk to appear strong. That’s not strength, it’s weakness. We needed a President to remind us we are the United States. We needed someone to console a nation and put us on a path to a better America. He failed in every imaginable way."

Who's applauding Trump's response to protests?

"I really applaud President Trump and Bill Barr, the attorney general, for taking swift action ... So from a federal level, I think calm is the word right now we’re trying to plead for."

"The president’s duty is to protect America. That’s what he’s doing. He’s using all of his available rights and authorizations as needed. And look if the governors, if the mayors won’t protect their own citizens, the president knows that falls to him."

"He's leading."

"Not only should we demand justice for George Floyd, we should demand justice for these innocent victims of this agitation, this chaos ... so I think the president is sending a strong and a correct message that we will not tolerate it under any circumstances."

"President Trump just walked from the White House to St. John’s Church to demonstrate his commitment to restoring law and order and protecting the American people and private property. I support @realDonaldTrump’s efforts to stop the criminal rioting and restore the rule of law."

"Strong words by @realDonaldTrump to fill the breach of Mayors/Govs who need to do more to restore order. Peaceful protests can be beautiful & profoundly American & are constitutionally protected. Rioting is another story. Looting, arson, physical violence, etc. must end NOW!"

Retweeted Trump’s tweet on designating antifa as a terrorist organization with comment: "Long overdue. Antifa has been engaging in organized and deliberate violence for years. Marxists have taken full advantage of this situation, and they have to be brought to justice. Their behavior this past week has been inexcusable."

Who focuses on the nationwide protests?

"What some people are missing about the underlying causes of the protests is that this is not simply about police brutality. It is about the fact that we as a nation are not dealing honestly with the structural and systemic racism that persists in almost every part of our lives."

"While we must reject these violent agitators, we must not allow their co-opting of this cause to succeed by focusing only on their destruction."

"I’m grateful to the Minnesota National Guard for expanding their role from assisting in the pandemic to bringing calm and security to the streets. Their short-term mission in the Twin Cities should be followed by a concerted effort to address the underlying issues that fueled this tragedy. I pledge to work with my colleagues in the Minnesota delegation to do what I can to help this healing."

"George Floyd deserves swift justice and our rule of law requires due process. But rioting will not help. This violence has got to stop. Because we have real work to do."

"Those protesting in cities across the nation have every right to do so, but looting, violence and chaos have no place in our communities or on our streets."

"The right to peacefully protest is an inalienable one, which must be protected by all elected leaders no matter what. I hope the messages being shared in recent days by people of color about the effects of systemic & institutionalized racism will be met w/ action."

Who focuses on George Floyd's death?

"George Floyd is one more black man taken needlessly and far too soon. We must fight for justice for George, Ahmaud, and Breonna. Their families deserve answers and accountability. I’m calling on @TheJusticeDept to investigate and provide fair, transparent justice."

"#GeorgeFloyd was killed before our eyes — the latest brutal instance of the danger Black Americans often face. Our patriotism and humanity demand we call out injustice and re-commit to making change. I call on the USDOJ to open a full investigation for accountability and justice. ”

"We must take time to listen, learn from and reflect on the events over the last several days and the long history of racial inequity in this country."

"Our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line, and some die in service to their community and nation every year. The malicious conduct that we saw from some police officers, one of whom took George Floyd's life, do not represent law enforcement and they need to be punished to the full extent of the law for their actions."

"George Floyd was born in Fayetteville. I was sickened watching the video and saddened to learn his horrific killing is being mourned by members of his family in our own community. We demand swift justice in this case and ask you join Renee & me keeping his family in our prayers."

"While arrest of the officer who killed him in some ways helps with the anger, it does not heal the wound. Others were complicit. This cannot continue to happen to black men in our country."

Additional design and photo research by Bill Kuchman.

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