The Cynical Hypocrisy Behind Trump’s Visit to an NYPD Officer’s Wake

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/GettyNYPD
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/GettyNYPD
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Donald Trump attended the wake of fallen NYPD Officer Jonathan Diller on Thursday, telling the crowd of media outside afterward, “Police are the greatest people.”

Anyone who thinks Trump truly believes that or that he was at the wake out of genuine respect should recall a campaign rally in Ohio earlier this month.

At the start of that March 16 event in Vandalia, Trump solemnly saluted as the sound system played a recording of the J6 Prison Choir singing the national anthem inside the District of Columbia jail.

The producers who had spliced in a recording of Trump reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and marketed the song as “Justice for All” have never identified the particular singers. But an analysis by Just Security found that 17 of the 20 Jan. 6 prisoners in the facility around the time of the recording had been arrested for assaulting law enforcement officers.

Among them was Peter Stager, who is serving four years for beating D.C. Police Officer Blake Miller as he lay head-first, face-down on the Capitol steps. Video captured Stager striking the defenseless cop at least three times with a flagpole that had an American flag attached.

Court papers show that Stager subsequently stood over and cursed another officer who had been dragged into the crowd. “Every single one of those Capitol law enforcement officers, death is the remedy,” Stager was recorded saying during the riot. “That is the only remedy they get.”

This recording on Jan. 6 was part of the evidence against Stager when he was held in the D.C. Jail where the J6 Prison choir recording was made over a cellblock phone. Trump first played “Justice for All” at a March 25, 2023, rally in Waco, Texas that marked the start of his campaign for re-election.

“Our people love those people,” Trump told the crowd.

Trump supporters stand on a U.S. Capitol Police armored vehicle on Jan. 6, 2021.

Trump supporters stand on a U.S. Capitol Police armored vehicle on Jan. 6, 2021.

Bill Clark/Roll Call via Getty

Trump has played it repeatedly since then, evolving from standing with his hand over his heart to giving a hand salute this month.

“And you see the spirit from the hostages, and that’s what they are as hostages,” Trump told the crowd in Ohio. “They've been treated terribly and very unfairly, you know that everybody knows that. And we're going to be working on that.” He called the prisoners “unbelievable patriots” and termed their incarceration “a disgrace.”

“My first acts as your next President will be to Close the Border, DRILL, BABY, DRILL, and Free the January 6 Hostages being wrongfully imprisoned!” he declared in a March 12 posting on Truth Social.

As tallied by the U.S. Department of Justice, those arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 riot included “approximately 127 individuals who have been charged with using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer.”

Thirteen days after Trump made his latest pledge to free the “hostages,” 31-year-old Officer Diller was fatally shot in the stomach under his bullet-resistant vest after he approached an illegally parked car in Far Rockaway, Queens. He leaves behind a wife and a 1-year-old child.

“Our heartfelt prayers go out to the family of highly decorated NYPD officer Jonathan Diller, whose life was taken by a murderous career criminal yesterday during a traffic stop in Queens,” Trump said in a statement.

He followed that with a Truth Social post on Wednesday.

“To Officer Diller’s family, and all of the other brave men and women of law enforcement who put your lives on the line every day, we love you, we appreciate you, and we will always stand with you!”

Trump was apparently counting on everybody forgetting the 140 officers the DOJ says were assaulted at the Capitol by people he calls “patriots” and “hostages.” He used a very different word to describe 34-year-old Guy Rivera, a career criminal arrested in connection with the officer’s killing, calling him a “thug” and saying that he should never have been released from lockup.

Trump was saying exactly what Diller’s grieving comrades would want to hear—sentiments that have led many law-enforcement officers in New York and elsewhere to imagine he has their interests at heart, even though he has proven with his actions that he does not.

Trump campaign spokesperson Karoline Leavitt subsequently announced that the ex-president, who fancies himself a champion of law and order even though he has been indicted four times, would be attending Diller’s wake on Long Island on Thursday.

“President Trump is moved by the invitation to join NYPD Officer Jonathan Diller’s family and colleagues as they deal with his senseless and tragic death,” Leavitt said.

Leavitt did not say who had invited Trump, and the campaign did not respond to a query from The Daily Beast. A spokesman for the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York said he did not know who had asked Trump to attend. It turns out that Trump was invited by Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, a Republican.

It should be noted that President Joe Biden was also expected in New York on Thursday, to attend a big fundraiser at Radio City Music Hall with former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. There are no reports that Biden was invited to attend Diller’s wake, which says something about what most New York cops and their families feel about him.

New Yorkers pay their respects at a memorial for slain NYPD officer Jonathan Diller outside the 101st Precinct.

New Yorkers pay their respects at a memorial for slain NYPD officer Jonathan Diller outside the 101st Precinct.

Barry Williams for NY Daily News via Getty Images

If Trump’s attendance was not just a political stunt with the bonus of contrasting him with Biden, he could have just arrived at the Massapequa Funeral Home without making a public announcement beforehand. He could have said a prayer at the coffin and offered his condolences to the widow, Stephanie.

But Trump’s campaign alerted the media it so often disparages. He thirsts for the headlines—whether they are about him praising cop-beaters or honoring an officer killed in the line of duty.

Trump arrived at the wake at 2 p.m., escorted by Blakeman and greeted by NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban. After 30 minutes with Diller’s family, friends and fellow officers, he emerged and paused outside to speak to reporters.

He almost sounded like he is capable of empathy as he spoke of Diller’s “very beautiful wife” and son.“

“That child—brand new, beautiful baby—sitting there innocent as can be doesn't know how his life has been changed,” Trump said. “But the Diller family will. You’ll never be the same.”

He said what needed to be said, but the words should ring hollow to anyone who knows what he has also said about the insurrectionists who battered Diller’s comrades on Jan. 6.

There is no need to pay attention to anything Trump said. Focus instead on the words Diller’s brother-in-inlaw, Joseph McCauley, spoke at a candlelight vigil the night before.

“He loved what he did. He was born to be a cop. He was born to be a hero. He died being a hero. He died doing what he loved.”

McCauley then said of Diller something that we should be able to say about those we elevate to our highest office: “I will forever be a better person because of him.”

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