DeWine won’t ‘critique’ handling of D.C. protests, but has sent Ohio National Guardsmen there

By: - June 5, 2020 1:33 pm

President Donald Trump meeting with governors, including Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Ohio earlier this week sent 100 members of the National Guard to serve under President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., where they’re likely to play a role in policing protests. But Gov. Mike DeWine on Friday said he “didn’t know all the facts” about a federal law-enforcement action there on Monday that has drawn international condemnation.

During his Friday press conference, DeWine announced that one member of the Ohio guard sent to the nation’s capital had been removed after the FBI said it had uncovered evidence that the trooper had expressed a white supremacist ideology.

However, DeWine again avoided criticizing Trump, his fellow Republican, who has been widely condemned for his handling of mass protests in reaction to white police officer’s killing of a restrained, unarmed black man.

“I’m not going to critique what happened in Washington,” DeWine said Friday when asked whether he agreed with a photo-op Trump staged Monday. “I don’t know all the facts of what happened in Washington. My focus is on Ohio.”

Despite Dewine’s statement, the world media have been plastered with videos and accounts of what happened.

At Trump’s behest on Monday, Attorney General William Barr ordered federal personnel to clear peaceful demonstrators from Lafayette Square just north of the White House. The federal officers fired rubber bullets and tear gas and used horses to scatter the crowd — which included members of the clergy

Trump then strode through the park, followed by Barr and his defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, who was clad in battle fatigues. Trump posed for pictures in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church holding aloft a Bible.

Around 10 p.m., a Black Hawk helicopter hovered at rooftop level over protestors, snapping tree limbs, kicking up dust and shining spotlights into the crowd.

The backlash to that — and to Trump and his defense secretary’s demands earlier in the day that governors “dominate” the “battlespace” in American cities — drew an immediate and intense backlash.

Former senior military officials — including Trump’s first defense secretary, James Mattis — harshly criticized the actions. So did the Episcopal and Catholic bishops of Washington, D.C. 

Former CIA analysts who have studied the developing world said Monday’s events reminded them of strongmen in those countries and made the analysts worried for the future of American democracy. A Washington Post column by the writer Salman Rushdie was titled, “I’ve seen dictators rise and fall. Beware, America.”

But DeWine on Friday again declined to criticize Trump, on whose Ohio re-election campaign DeWine is an honorary chair despite the president’s long history of racially incendiary statements.

“I don’t know all the facts. I’ve seen what you’ve seen on TV,” DeWine said. “I’m not going to critique every single thing the president of the United States does.”

Predictably, DeWine’s unwillingness to criticize Trump didn’t set easily with some.

“‘I don’t know the facts,’ Why NOT?American citizens were attacked with tear gas and rubber pellets so the tyrant in chief could take a pic with a bible in front of a church!!!!! Military attacked our citizens!! SHAME ON YOU for not condemning that horrendous act,” one twitter user said.

DeWine isn’t alone. His fellow Ohio Republican, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, came in for wide ridicule this week when he brushed off a Washington Post reporter who had asked about Monday’s events by saying, “I’m late for lunch.”

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Marty Schladen
Marty Schladen

Marty Schladen has been a reporter for decades, working in Indiana, Texas and other places before returning to his native Ohio to work at The Columbus Dispatch in 2017. He's won state and national journalism awards for investigations into utility regulation, public corruption, the environment, prescription drug spending and other matters.