President TrumpDonald John Trump South Korea criticizes Bolton’s book as ‘distorting reality’ of nuclear talks Democrats face tough questions with Bolton protesters trying to tear down Andrew Jackson statue near White House MORE He said Tuesday that he is preparing an executive order to reinforce existing laws that punish people for destroying monuments while investigating his opposition to removing statues in honor of controversial historical figures.
“I will have an executive order shortly, and all he is really going to do is reinforce what is already there, but in a more uniform way,” Trump told reporters at the White House before leaving for a trip to Arizona.
The president’s comments came after trying to tear down a statue of President Jackson in Lafayette Square, across from the White House, on Monday night. Police intervened, deploying pepper spray and using force to disperse protesters before the statue could be knocked down.
Trump praised the law enforcement on Tuesday and urged “long-term prison terms” for those who smashed the statue of Jackson, who fought in the War of 1812, opposed the abolition of slavery, and signed the Law on Indian expulsion.
“We are looking for long-term jail terms for these hooligans and these thugs and the anarchists and agitators, and we call them whatever they want,” Trump said. “Some people don’t like that language, but that’s what they are. They are bad people. They don’t love our country. And they are not tearing down our monuments. I just want to clarify that.”
The executive order as Trump described it seemed to be largely symbolic. Existing law already criminalizes destroying “any structure, plaque, statue, or other monument on public property that commemorates the service of any person or persons in the United States armed forces.”
But in recent days, Trump has opposed his opposition to the removal or desecration of statues and military bases honoring Confederate leaders amid growing calls for change between protesters and some lawmakers.
The statues have collapsed or defaced in various protests across the country this month, including figures associated with the Confederacy, such as a statue of Jefferson Davis in Richmond, Virginia, as well as others generally associated with racist politics and rhetoric, such as the former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo (D) and various statues of Christopher Columbus.
Lawmakers from both parties have also discussed renaming military bases named after Confederate generals, a move Trump has strongly opposed.