President Trump told some of the nation’s governors Monday that they are “weak” and they need to “dominate” the protesters who have taken to the streets in dozens of cities across the country in recent days to express their rage, frustration, and sadness about police brutality and racism.
“If you don’t dominate you’re wasting your time,” Trump reportedly told the governors. “They’re going to run over you, you’re going to look like a bunch of jerks. You have to dominate.”
Trump told the governors that some of them were making themselves look like “fools” and said they were embarrassing the United States. He encouraged governors to “arrest people,” “track people” and to “put them in jail for ten years.” He also encouraged them to use the military.
He referred to looters as “scum” and said Minneapolis, where police killed George Floyd last week, has become “a laughingstock all over the world.”
Trump said he is putting General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “in charge” of the protest response. It’s not clear what that means.
The call included a riff on flag burning, with Trump encouraging governors to enact laws banning it, CBS News reports:
“I’m not a believer in flag-burning,” the president said on the call. “And I would think that if a state wanted to try to pass a law that you’re not allowed to burn flags, with a certain punishment — a strong punishment — I would think that the United States government would be backing you up all the way.”
At least one participant in the call pushed back on Trump’s handling of the civil unrest that’s gripping the nation. According to CNN, Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker told Trump that he’s “extraordinarily concerned with the rhetoric coming out of the White House.”
“People are feeling real pain out there,” he said. “We have to have national leadership in calling for calm.” Trump responded by saying, “I don’t like your rhetoric much either.”