Psaki casts GOP as party of 'defund the police' after slogan backfires on Democrats

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki accused Republicans of being the party of defunding the police on Monday — after “Defund the Police” became a rallying cry of progressive activists in 2020 and damaged Democrats’ appeal with moderate voters.

Republicans voted against President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which was signed in March, even though it included $350 billion for state and local governments that could be used for local police.

“Something one of the advisers said this weekend, Cedric Richmond, he said Republicans defunded the police by not supporting the American Rescue Plan,” Fox News’ Peter Doocy asked Psaki on Monday. “But how is it that that is an argument to be made when the president never mentioned needing money for police to stop a crime wave when he was selling the American Rescue Plan?”

“Well, the president did mention that the American Rescue Plan, the state and local funding, something that was supported by the president, a lot of Democrats who supported and voted for the bill, could help ensure local cops were kept on the beat in communities across the country. As you know, [it] didn’t receive a single Republican vote. That funding has been used to keep cops on the beat,” Psaki said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Monday, June 28, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“At the time, it was sold that local police departments might have pandemic-related budget shortfalls, not we need to keep cops on the beat because there’s a crime wave,” Doocy said.

“I think that any local department would argue that keeping cops on the beat to keep communities safe when they had to, because of budget shortfalls, fire police is something that helped them address crime in their local communities,” Psaki said, later adding that “it was a pretty good bill and piece of legislation.”

Biden advisor Cedric Richmond railed against Republicans on “Fox News Sunday.”

“Let’s talk about who defunded the police. When we were in Congress last year trying to pass a rescue plan — I’m sorry, not the rescue plan but an emergency relief plan for cities that were cash-strapped and laying off police and firefighters — it was the Republicans who objected to it. And in fact, they didn’t get funding until the American Rescue Plan, which our plan allowed state and local governments to replenish their police departments and do the other things that are needed,” Richmond said.

“So look, Republicans are very good at staying on talking points of who says defund the police, but the truth is, they defunded the police, we funded crime intervention, and a whole bunch of other things,” he added.

More than seven in 10 voters think crime is on the rise nationally amid a backdrop of escalating crime rates in major American cities and FBI warnings for local law enforcement to prepare for increases over the summer.

That’s according to a Fox News poll released on May 26 and conducted May 22-25. The poll found that compared to last year, majorities think crime is increasing both nationally (73 percent say there is “more” crime), as well as in their local communities (54 percent).

A protester holds up a homemade sign that says, "Defund the Police" with the Manhattan Bridge behind them as they perform a peaceful protest walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. (Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Republicans (83 percent) are more likely than independents (73 percent) and Democrats (62 percent) to say crime is up.  Equal proportions of Hispanics (75 percent), Blacks (74 percent) and Whites (72 percent) think crime has risen nationally compared to last year.

One year following the death of George Floyd and the intense nationwide protests and calls to defund police departments that followed, the poll shows most people have trust in law enforcement.  

Seventy-two percent of registered voters have “a great deal” (36 percent) or “fair amount” (36 percent) of trust and confidence in police and law enforcement.  Twenty-seven percent have “not very much” or “none at all” when it comes to confidence in those wearing the blue.

Fox News’ Victoria Balara contributed to this report.

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