Donald Trump claimed ignorance about the origin of a phrase he tweeted – "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" – about violent protests in Minneapolis after a 46-year-old black man was killed by a white police officer.
"I don't know where it came from, where it originated. It's accurate," Mr Trump said, saying he was unaware it was uttered by Miami's police chief amid racial violence there in 1967.
Mr Trump claimed to have heard the phrase "from many other places." As he often does, he did not elaborate.
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The president said there were "good people" protesting on Thursday night in Minneapolis on a violent night as people took the streets to protest the death of George Floyd while a white police officer kneeled on his throat. Mr Floyd pleaded for mercy, saying, "I can't breathe."
The police officer was arrested on Friday.
Mr Trump's remarks came during an event with industry executives about reopening the country amid the coronavirus pandemic that he has spoken to family members of Mr Floyd, calling them "terrific people."
"Our nation's deepest condolences and heartfelt sympathies to the family of George Floyd," Mr Trump said before uttering another garbled sentiment: "It's a terrible thing. We all saw what we saw ... and it's very hard to conceive of anything other than what we did see."
Hours after appearing to threaten to send US military troops to Minneapolis to shoot protestors who loot businesses there, the president said this as he referred to prepared remarks printed on a piece of paper in front of him: "We also have to make the statement that it's very important that we have peaceful protesters."
And he again said he has ordered the Justice Department to "expedite" its investigation into Mr Floyd's death, for which he told reporters there appears to have been "no excuse."