WASHINGTON - President Trump is expected to sign an executive order by the end of the week that would protect public statues and federal monuments and make vandalizing or any destruction to them punishable by jail time, Fox News has learned.
Sources told Fox News Wednesday that the text of the executive order is still being finalized. But the president said in a tweet earlier this week that people who deface, damage, or destroy federal monuments and statues should get "up to 10 years in prison."
It is unclear, at this point, if the executive order would go further than that, but the president said Tuesday that it would simply “reinforce what’s already there, but in a more uniform way.”
“I have authorized the Federal Government to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statute 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 Tuesday.
“This action is taken effective immediately, but may also be used retroactively for destruction or vandalism already caused,” he continued. “There will be no exceptions!”
The president’s comments came after a failed attempt by demonstrators to take down a statue of Andrew Jackson in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square near the White House Monday night, a second incident targeting the nearby St. John’s Church, and prior vandalism of the Lincoln Memorial and World War II Memorial. Some people have also vowed to tear down a statue of Abraham Lincoln this week in Lincoln Park on federal park property on Capitol Hill.
Jackson, who has faced ire in the present day for his severe treatment of Native Americans, is among the latest historical figures targeted by protesters demanding monuments and memorials to those with racist pasts be taken down. Reuters reported that while protesters failed to take down the Jackson statue, it was defaced Monday night with “killer scum” written on the pedestal.
Historic monuments and statues have become the targets of anger and vandalism during protests in the wake of George Floyd's police custody death at the end of May.
The initial statues under fire were those of Confederate soldiers and generals largely in the South, but the anger has spread to monuments well beyond that historical period.
And last week, demonstrators in Portland, Ore., toppled a statue of President George Washington. Friday, protesters in San Francisco defaced and toppled the statue of former President Ulysses S. Grant, who led the Union Army during the Civil War.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Tuesday slammed the “far-left” push to take down statues of controversial historical figures, saying the monuments were being roped to the ground “like they are Saddam Hussein.”
“Well, recent days have reminded us it is not just our present-day debates that far-left radicals want to overwhelm,” he said. “They also want to rewrite our past.”
McConnell listed the monuments that have been defaced in recent days—noting that in Portland, Ore., a mob “graffitied a statue of our first President, pulled it down, and burned an American flag over his head. This is George Washington.”
McConnell said another Washington statue was defaced in Baltimore, a statue of Thomas Jefferson was ripped down in Portland, and others were targeted.
“This is the general and first President who built our nation, and the author of the Declaration of Independence. Genius statesmen who helped begin this grand experiment that has brought freedom to hundreds of millions and saved the world a few times for good measure,” McConnell said. “And yet a crazy fringe is treating their monuments like vanity statues of tinhorn tyrants.”
He added: “Our Founding Fathers are being roped to the ground like they were Saddam Hussein. The list goes on.”
McConnell was referring to the famous moment in 2003 when a 40-foot bronze statue of the Iraqi dictator was roped and pulled to the ground, symbolizing the end of his regime.
Fox News' Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.