‘We’ll put them down very quickly’: Trump threatens to quash election night riots

“Look, it’s called insurrection,” he added. “We just send in, and we do it very easy. I mean, it’s very easy. I’d rather not do that because there’s no reason for it, but if we had to, we’d do that and put it down within minutes.”

Trump drew bipartisan criticism in June after police officers and National Guard troops fired rubber bullets and deployed flash-bang grenades to force largely peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square outside the White House.

The incursion against protesters by U.S. law enforcement officials allowed the president, top White House aides and senior administration officials to walk across the street to the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church — where Trump posed with a Bible for a political photo opportunity.

Amid other mass demonstrations this summer against police brutality and racial injustice, Trump has faced further scrutiny for his treatment of protesters and at times unwelcome federal intervention.

In July, Trump deployed an ambiguous mix of militarized officers from the Department of Homeland Security to Portland, Ore., where they were captured on video using apparently unnecessary force against a Navy veteran and loading protesters into unmarked cars.

As the general election campaign has ramped up, Trump has sought to highlight the looting and rioting that has accompanied some of the nationwide protests, while claiming Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden would allow the unrest to continue.

Biden has forcefully condemned all violence in American cities, but Trump has been reluctant to speak out against violence perpetrated by his supporters in the form of counterprotests.

It is unclear whether there will be rioting on election night or if the White House race will even be called in the hours after the polls close, due to the significant expansion of mail-in voting amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump has expressed vocal opposition to voting by mail, asserting without evidence that the virtual ballot-casting practice would result in widespread voter fraud and yield unfavorable electoral results for Republicans.

Experts acknowledge there are some slightly higher fraud risks associated with mail-in voting compared with in-person voting, but only when proper security measures are not in place. A recent study found that voting by mail does not benefit one party over another.

Still, Trump threatened last month that he would order law enforcement officials to polling places in an effort to deter illegal activity on Election Day, although it is unclear what authority he has to issue such a directive.

“We’re going to have everything,” Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity. “We’re going to have sheriffs, and we’re going to have law enforcement, and we’re going to have, hopefully, U.S. attorneys, and we’re going to have everybody and attorneys general.”

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows insisted that Trump was not advocating a form of voter suppression, and Attorney General William Barr argued that sending federal agents to voting sites would be legal if they were responding to a “particular criminal threat” or “specific investigative danger.”

Barr said the Justice Department had historically deployed officials to “enforce civil rights” and “to make sure that people were not being harassed and there was no suppression of vote against African Americans.”