Trump calls Ahmaud Arbery killing 'heartbreaking' but cautions about 'empty spot on the tape'

President Trump said Monday that a video showing two white men in Georgia gunning down and killing an African-American jogger is “heartbreaking,” though he left open the possibility that “an empty spot on the tape” might reveal more information in the case.

Trump was asked about the video that shows the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery as he jogged along a tree-lined street in Brunswick, Ga. The question came near the end of a Rose Garden briefing on the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think it’s horrible and it’s certainly being looked at by many people. I’m speaking to many people about it,” Trump said of the video that surfaced on social media two months after the Feb. 23 shooting. A swift public outcry erupted and was followed by the arrest of Travis McMichael, 34, on a charge of felony murder and aggravated assault, and his father, Gregory, 64, who is charged as a party to felony murder and aggravated assault.

Trump praised Arbery’s appearance in a photograph released by his family that showed him wearing a tuxedo.

“He looked, I saw the picture of him in his tuxedo and it was so beautiful and he looks like a wonderful young guy. Would have been a wonderful ... just a wonderful guy,” Trump said. “I think it’s a horrible thing. I think it’s a horrible thing. Now, with that being said, as you know they’re studying the case carefully, they’re interviewing everybody involved and we’ll see what happens. To me it’s a very sad thing.”

Gregory McMichael, left, and his son Travis McMichael. (Glynn County Detention Center via AP)
Gregory McMichael, left, and his son Travis McMichael. (Glynn County Detention Center via AP)

The video was believed to be in the possession of authorities before it was released anonymously online, but neither McMichael had been charged. In questioning at the time, they told investigators they were attempting a citizens arrest of Arbery, who was 25, suspecting him of a burglary. In the account by the McMichaels, according to the Brunswick News, Arbery, who was unarmed, was struggling with Travis McMichael, who had a shotgun.

Protests have erupted over the killing as well as the investigation. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Sunday that “this was a lynching of an African-American man.”

Trump said Tuesday that he hoped for a speedy resolution in the case.

“You have a lot of people looking at it and hopefully an answer is going to be arrived at very quickly. But it’s something that is heartbreaking,” Trump said.

The president also repeated his earlier assertion that the video, which was shot by a motorist, might contain “an empty spot on the tape” that could affect the case.

Donald Trump
President Trump at the press briefing on Monday. (Alex Brandon/AP)

“Well, I saw the tape and when they moved left, I don’t believe that when they moved left outside of the tape nobody saw what was going on. Nobody saw — it’s an empty spot on the tape, I guess,” Trump said. “Now, do they have additional tapes, I hope, but I will say that it’s something that based on what I saw, doesn’t look good.”

Trump added that he he had spoken over the weekend to Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., an African-American who he had “a lot of respect for” to ask him his opinion of the video.

“Tim, what do you think, tell me,” the president said, reprising his conversation with Scott.

Trump said Scott was “very disturbed by it.”


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