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The White House is de­fend­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s re­cent re­marks that po­lice shouldn’t be too nice when trans­port­ing sus­pects, say­ing Mon­day that the pres­i­dent was “mak­ing a joke.”

On a visit to Long Is­land last week, Trump im­plored po­lice of­fi­cers to “Please don’t be too nice,” not­ing that some of­fi­cers are too cour­te­ous to sus­pected crim­i­nals when ar­rest­ing them. That prompted crit­ics to ac­cuse the pres­i­dent of en­cour­ag­ing po­lice bru­tal­ity.

“Like when you guys put some­body in the car, and you’re pro­tect­ing their head, you know, the way you put your hand over” their head, he said, putting his hand above his head for em­pha­sis. “I said, ‘You can take the hand away, OK?’”Trump de­clared.

White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders told re­porters Mon­day,“I be­lieve he was mak­ing a joke at the time.”

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