Inside Trump’s Complicated Relationship With Law Enforcement

On Jan. 19, 2021, as part of a series of pardons on his last full day in office, President Donald J. Trump commuted the sentence of a man who had spent almost 30 years of a life sentence in federal prison for what prosecutors said was his role in the murder of an undercover police officer in upstate New York.

The commutation went largely unnoticed as the country grappled with the aftermath of a pro-Trump mob’s attack on the Capitol, which included assaults on Capitol Police officers. Since then, Mr. Trump has referred to the rioters as “patriots” and “hostages,” and has criticized an officer who shot and killed a woman trying to breach a doorway near the House chamber.

And yet Mr. Trump, who is the first former president to face criminal indictment, has sought to portray himself as a champion of law enforcement, surrounding himself at events with a tableau of police officers and law-enforcement officials as he campaigns to return to the White House.

Mr. Trump has been endorsed by three police unions. He recently stood next to the Nassau County Police commissioner at a microphone outside a funeral home where he paid a condolence call at the wake for a slain New York Police officer, Jonathan Diller. Days later, Mr. Trump promised at a rally that he would pass a law for a mandatory death penalty for people who kill police officers.

“You’ll see the whole situation come to a halt,” Mr. Trump said of police deaths.

Mr. Trump often poses for photos with local police officers who are helping to guard his motorcades at various stops, including last weekwhenhe took pictures with officers at a campaign stop in Upper Manhattan on the second day of his criminal trial. His aides regularly post photos and videos of the encounters on social media, a montage intended to underscore a law-and-order image of the presumptive Republican nominee — who was also arraigned four times last year.

Even in the courthouse, Mr. Trump looks to display this affinity, when he enters the courtroom and warmly greets the court officers.

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