President Donald Trump said Friday that he’s spoken to the family of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis earlier this week.
“I want to express our nation’s deepest condolences and most heartfelt sympathies to the family of George Floyd,” Trump said during a roundtable event at the White House, later adding, “I spoke to members of the family – terrific people.”
White House aides had planned for Trump to address the violence during an earlier appearance on Friday in the Rose Garden, which was originally billed as a news conference. But after announcing actions against China and the World Health Organization, he walked away without answering questions.
Trump has faced criticism throughout the day for a late-night tweet about looting that Twitter appended a warning to, saying it violating its rules against glorifying violence. “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!” the President said on Twitter.
During Friday’s roundtable event, Trump denied knowing the origins of the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” He said he has heard the phrase “for a long time” and that he doesn’t know where it came from or where it originated.
When a reporter noted it was said by the Miami police chief in 1967, Trump said that he “has also heard from many other places.”
Trump said at the roundtable event that Floyd’s death was “a terrible, terrible thing that happened,” adding that he’s ordered the Justice Department to expedite a federal investigation into the matter.
“It’s a local situation but we’re also making it into a federal situation and it’s a terrible thing. We all saw what we saw and it’s very hard to even conceive of anything other than what we did see,” Trump remarked. “(It) should never be allowed to happen, a thing like that.”
The President condemned looting in Minneapolis and other violent demonstrations around the country in the wake of Floyd’s death, after tweeting earlier that military enforcement might quell the masses.
“We have peaceful protesters, and support the rights for peaceful protesters. We can’t allow a situation like (what happened) in Minneapolis to descend further into lawless anarchy and chaos,” the President said at the roundtable.
The President also said that while there were “good people” protesting in Minnesota Thursday evening, the actions of violent protestors “did a great disservice to their state.”
“The looters should not be allowed to drown out the voices of so many peaceful protesters they hurt so badly, what is happening and it’s so bad for the state and their great city,” he continued.
Nearly 15 hours after his overnight tweet that Twitter flagged, Trump tried to adopt a more measured tone in front of cameras late Friday afternoon.
“I understand the hurt. I understand the pain. People have really been through a lot. The family of George is entitled to justice and the people of Minnesota are entitled to live in safety,” Trump said.
When asked if there was a police brutality problem in the US, Trump responded by claiming crime is declining around the country and saying, “I think most people would admit that most of the police men and women that I’ve seen have been outstanding. When you have something like this happen … you look at it and you say, ‘How does a thing like that happen?’”
Earlier on Friday, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said during livestreamed remarks from his home that he’d spoken with Floyd’s family. Biden also appeared to take a swipe at the President.
“This is no time for incendiary tweets. It’s no time to encourage violence. This is a national crisis, and we need real leadership right now,” Biden said.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Jason Hoffman contributed to this report.