President Donald Trump had another embarrassing tweet debacle today. Trump sought to highlight the recently disclosed remarks by Michael Bloomberg on the stop-and-frisk policy. Trump tweeted out “WOW, BLOOMBERG IS A TOTAL RACIST.” The problem is that in 2016 Trump supported that policy. The tweet was suddenly taken down but not before journalists like Abby Phillip took a screenshot. The issue could loom large in both the primary and general election. There are however a couple of points that could be used by both candidates in addressing criticism, though Bloomberg has already renounced his prior statements and policy.
The Bloomberg campaign reportedly tried to pressure the Aspen not to release the tap. That effort to bury the recording failed and the tape shows Bloomberg saying:
“Ninety-five percent of murders- murderers and murder victims fit one M.O. You can just take a description, Xerox it, and pass it out to all the cops . . . They are male, minorities, 16-25. That’s true in New York, that’s true in virtually every city (inaudible). And that’s where the real crime is. You’ve got to get the guns out of the hands of people that are getting killed.
. . .
“So one of the unintended consequences is people say, ‘Oh my God, you are arresting kids for marijuana that are all minorities.’ Yes, that’s true. Why? Because we put all the cops in minority neighborhoods. Yes, that’s true. Why do we do it? Because that’s where all the crime is. And the way you get the guns out of the kids’ hands is to throw them up against the wall and frisk them… And then they start… ‘Oh I don’t want to get caught.’ So they don’t bring the gun. They still have a gun, but they leave it at home.”
Trump is fighting to peel away a fraction of the African American vote and pounced without thinking:
That triggered critics to note that the “racist” policy was supported by Trump.
There’s just one little problem with this…
Donald J. Trump in 2016: “I would do stop-and-frisk. I think you have to. We did it in New York, it worked incredibly well and you have to be proactive and, you know, you really help people sort of change their mind automatically,” https://twitter.com/timmurtaugh/status/1227231557057949696 …
The hair-trigger tweets are continuing to undermine Trump. While other Democrats like Bernie Sanders could use this to wedge African-American voters away from Bloomberg, the issue may have less success in a Trump v. Bloomberg race. On the other hand, it creates an equivalency with Trump when Trump is not trying to win the African-American vote but simply peel off enough to win. Yet, Trump will also have to decide if he wants to oppose the policy given the support of some law enforcement advocates and his own clear support in interviews in 2016. Yet, other Republicans like Lindsey Graham have called it “pretty offensive.”
The New York stop-and-frisk policy was found unconstitutional before Trump gave his full-throated endorsement of the policy. Indeed, in an exchange with Lester Holt, Trump noted that the district court judge had been removed from a related case and that New York would have ultimately won the case if Mayor De Blasio did not abandon the litigation: “No, you’re wrong,” Trump responded. “It went before a judge, who was a very against-police judge. It was taken away from her. And our mayor, our new mayor, refused to go forward with the case. They would have won an appeal. If you look at it, throughout the country, there are many places where it’s allowed.”
Bloomberg however tried repeatedly to set aside such decisions and reinstate the policy.
There is a couple of nuanced points here that may work in Trump’s favor. First and foremost, stop and frisks are not unconstitutional per se. In Terry vs. Ohio, the Supreme Court ruled that an office could legally stop a person if the officer has reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The Court said a frisk could occur if there was reasonable suspicion that the person was armed or presented a risk to the officer. The issue therefore in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Floyd vs. City of New York, was how New York was using this power. Thus, the issue was whether this constitutional practice was being implemented in an unconstitutional way. In her opinion, Judge Shira Scheindlin said that it was being done unconstitutionally, noting “[b]oth statistical and anecdotal evidence showed that minorities are indeed treated differently than whites.”