Internal documents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) obtained by NBC News reportedly show that law enforcement officials were encouraged to make sympathetic comments about Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager accused of killing two people during racial justice protests in Kenosha, Wis., in August.
According to NBC News, one set of talking points sent to Homeland Security officials directed them to say that Rittenhouse “took his rifle to the scene of the rioting to help defend small business owners.”
An additional document with talking points told officials to say that news outlets were improperly labeling the anti-government Patriot Prayer group as racist following clashes with protesters in Portland, Ore.
NBC News reported that it is unclear from the documents if the talking points came from the White House or the DHS press office.
Authorities have said that Rittenhouse, who previously vocalized his support for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump signs bill averting shutdown after brief funding lapse Privacy, civil rights groups demand transparency from Amazon on election data breaches Facebook takes down Trump campaign ads tying refugees to coronavirus MORE and police on social media, traveled to Kenosha from his home in Antioch, Ill., with an AR-15 rifle.
The 17-year-old then allegedly shot three people protesting in Kenosha following the police shooting of 29-year-old Black man Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse has since been held without bail in Lake County’s juvenile detention facility and faces multiple charges, including first-degree intentional homicide in the death of two protesters.
Four former DHS officials told NBC News that instructions for how law enforcement officials should weigh in on an unresolved case is particularly unusual.
“It is as unprecedented as it is wrong,” Peter Boogaard, who was a spokesperson for DHS during the Obama administration, told NBC News.
Elizabeth Neumann, Trump’s former DHS assistant secretary for threat prevention and security policy, said that the reported talking points show that security officials “seemed more interested in Rittenhouse’s reputation than calling for calm and actual law and order.”
Neumann left the Trump administration in April and has since endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenPrivacy, civil rights groups demand transparency from Amazon on election data breaches Facebook takes down Trump campaign ads tying refugees to coronavirus Trump crowd chants ‘lock her up’ about Omar as president warns of refugees in Minnesota MORE. In an interview with NPR last month, the former DHS official accused the president of “throwing fuel on the fire” of far-right extremism.
A DHS spokesperson told The Hill in a statement that the agency “does not comment on alleged leaked documents.”
As of Tuesday, the Christian crowdfunding website GiveSendGo had raised more than $520,000 to help pay for Rittenhouse’s legal fees. The page stated that the teenager was “being unfairly charged with murder” and that Rittenhouse acted in “self-defense.”
Updated: 2:07 p.m.