By Amie Parnes - 08/19/14 11:27 AM EDT
The White House has weighed sending President Obama to Ferguson, Mo., and has not ruled out a visit in upcoming weeks, according to sources familiar with the internal decisionmaking.
For now, the White House believes a trip by Obama to Ferguson would do more harm than good, by diverting resources on the ground at a pivotal time for law enforcement.
One senior administration official familiar with the talks said Obama didn’t rule a trip in or out at this point, but added that there are no immediate plans for the president to go to the St. Louis suburb.
A presidential trip would require heavy security at a time when state and local authorities, along with the Missouri National Guard, are dealing with demonstrations, protests and looting in the wake of the killing by a police officer of an unarmed black teenager.
Another night of clashes between police and demonstrators erupted Monday, leading to dozens of arrests and reports of shots being fired by some protestors.
“The volatility of the situation demands that the president go down there when the time is right to make sense of what is going on in Ferguson,” said Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist and a former longtime aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Manley expressed some skepticism about what the White House can do to ease the violence. Obama has called for calm twice this week, observers point out, and nightly outbreaks have continued to occur.
“I am not sure what more the White House can do except around the margins, like clamping down the programs that is giving all this military equipment to police departments,” Manley said. “This is less, I think, about legislating than changing people's hearts and minds.”
Obama announced Monday that Attorney General Eric Holder will visit the area on Wednesday. The Department of Justice's Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Director Ronald Davis is also being dispatched the areas to advise law enforcement officials there.
On Tuesday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who has spoken with the president in recent days, called an Obama visit a “bad idea” because of the strain it would put on local police.
“A presidential visit requires a lot of security from local officials,” McCaskill said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." “Right now out local officials have their hands full. It is a very bad time for a presidential visit for the practical reasons — many of these people are not getting enough sleep. We are really taxing all of the jurisdictions on the police forces.”
Obama did not directly answer a question posed to him by a reporter Monday about whether he considered visiting the community, which has seen an outbreak in violence over the last two weeks since the shooting.
Taking a neutral approach, Obama said he has to be “very careful about not prejudging these events before investigations are completed.”
“The [Department of Justice] works for me and when they're conducting an investigation, I've got to make sure that I don't look like I'm putting my thumb on the scale one way or the other,” Obama said.
“So it’s hard for me to address a specific case beyond making sure that it’s conducted in a way that is transparent, where there’s accountability, where people can trust the process, hoping that as a consequence of a fair and just process, you end up with a fair and just outcome,” Obama said.