Speed Reads

Trump tweets

Trump threatens statue vandals with 10 years in prison under 2003 law

President Trump was active on Twitter early Tuesday. He called his estranged former national security adviser John Bolton a "washed up Creepster" and "lowlife who should be in jail," retweeted Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams and Korean officials criticizing Bolton, and repeated his incorrect claim that COVID-19 "cases are going up in the U.S. because we are testing far more than any other country," drawing the bizarre conclusion that "with smaller testing we would show fewer cases!" Trump also tweeted that he has "authorized" police to enforce vandalism laws.

"I have authorized the federal government to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue, or other such federal property in the U.S. with up to 10 years in prison, per the Veteran's Memorial Preservation Act, or such other laws that may be pertinent," Trump tweeted. "This action is taken effective immediately, but may also be used retroactively for destruction or vandalism already caused. There will be no exceptions!"

Trump first tweeted about the law late Monday in response to an attempt to bring down "the magnificent statue of Andrew Jackson," a president he admires, outside the White House. The idea to use that particular law, the Veterans' Memorial Preservation and Recognition Act of 2003, apparently came from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). It allows fines or prison terms of up to 10 years for anyone "who willfully injures or destroys, or attempts to injure or destroy, any structure, plaque, statue, or other monument on public property commemorating the service of any person or persons in the armed forces of the United States."

Cotton urged Attorney General William Barr to bring charges against vandals who have "defaced and torn down statues, memorials, and monuments around our country," but it seems that Confederate statues, at least, would be exempt from such protections.