President Donald Trump on Tuesday criticized states for allowing mobs to rally and tear down statues in public places.
“Largely it’s state damage because the states have been very weak, extremely weak in protecting their heritage and protecting their culture,” Trump said.
The president spoke about protecting monuments at a roundtable on border security in Arizona. He acknowledged that he could act federally to protect national monuments, but that he would likely not help states protect their monuments unless he was asked to intervene.
“The states are going to have to take care of themselves, but we’re there to help if they want,” he said.
The president commented after a mob of protesters tried and failed to topple an Andrew Jackson statue in Lafayette Square near the White House on Monday night.
“It was a sneak attack,” Trump recalled, praising law enforcement for responding quickly to quell the mob.
Trump said he wanted the maximum sentence of ten years leveled on the individuals who attacked federal monuments, even though he questioned their motives.
“I really don’t think frankly they know who they are taking down, I think they just want to do things for bad purposes,” he said.
He said that he would act to protect any statues and monuments on federal land, including the Jefferson Memorial and Lincoln Memorial.
“They want to take down George Washington, how about that one, that’s a new one … I don’t think we’re going to let that happen,” he said.