Psaki slams ‘vigilantes' with 'assault weapons’ after saying she can’t comment on Rittenhouse trial

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds briefing as Biden plans to sign $1,200,000,000,000 infrastructure bill today

After saying she couldn’t comment specifically on the murder trial of 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, White House press secretary Jen Psaki declared Monday that President Biden disavows “vigilantes patrolling our communities with assault weapons.”

Psaki was asked by Fox News’ Peter Doocy during her daily press briefing why Biden previously characterized Rittenhouse as a White supremacist in a campaign video during the 2020 presidential election. Rittenhouse’s mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, has since accused the president of defaming her son for political points. 

“So, Peter, what I’m not going to speak to right now is anything about an ongoing trial, nor the president’s past comments,” Psaki responded. “What I can reiterate for you is the president’s view that we shouldn’t have, broadly speaking, vigilantes patrolling our communities with assault weapons. We shouldn’t have opportunists corrupting peaceful protests by rioting and burning down the communities they claim to represent anywhere in the country.”

Doocy pushed back, saying the president had already weighed in on the ongoing case.

“I just have nothing more to speak to an ongoing case where the closing arguments were just made,” Psaki replied, adding that the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service was prepared to assist the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin, if protests break out over the verdict.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, on her first day back after testing positive for COVID-19, speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., Nov. 12, 2021.
(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

“President Biden ran on a promise to bring Americans together and to turn down the temperature on the angry, divisive rhetoric and actions we saw over the past four years,” she said. “We’re here to provide support. And obviously we’re going to wait for any verdict to come out. And beyond that, certainly we are hopeful that any protests will be peaceful.”

Psaki’s comments came at the same time prosecutors gave their closing argument against Rittenhouse, who faces life in prison after fatally shooting two men and injuring a third man during a riot in Kenosha last summer. Rittenhouse’s defense team says the then-17-year-old was acting in self-defense when he used an AR-style semi-automatic rifle just before midnight Aug. 25, 2020.

During Monday’s briefing, Psaki was also asked to weigh in on the racial “unfairness” occurring in the U.S. criminal justice system.

Kyle Rittenhouse sits in court on Nov. 15, 2021 jury instructions in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

“I appreciate your question,” Psaki answered, “and I just want to be clear that what I don’t want to comment on from here is ongoing trials where the cases are being heard, where the jury is still making decisions. And that’s just a responsibility we have from here or I have as the spokesperson for the White House.”

President Biden delivers remarks on the debt ceiling during an event in the State Dining Room of the White House, Monday, Oct. 4, 2021, in Washington, D.C. 
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

She went on to say: “I will note that, of course, the president has watched and you’ve heard him talk about the impacts of what he has seen across the country – protests, the emotions, racial injustice, whether it’s in our legal system or it’s in policing – and the reforms that need to happen,” she continued. “And that is something where there’s not one event, of course, there are many events that have deeply impacted him and made this a priority for him and this White House. I know as there are verdicts we will have more to say. But I just am limited in what I can convey on that from here.”

Rittenhouse is White, as were the men he fatally shot, but race has become an underlying issue as some critics argued he would have faced harsher and swifter punishment if he was Black.

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