Trump to governors: ‘Most of you are weak’

In wake of violence, Trump tells states to crack down on protests

WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump on Monday derided many governors as “weak” and demanded tougher crackdowns on burning and stealing in the aftermath of violent protests in dozens of American cities.

Trump spoke to governors on a video teleconference that also included law enforcement and national security officials, telling the state leaders they “have to get much tougher.”

“Most of you are weak,” Trump said. “You have to arrest people.”

The days of protests were triggered by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes. The demonstrations turned violent in several cities, with looting and mayhem, and fires ignited in historic Lafayette Park across from the White House.

The president urged the governors to deploy the National Guard, which he credited for helping calm the situation Sunday night in Minneapolis. He demanded that similarly tough measures be taken in cities that also experienced violence, including New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

Statistics courtesy of The Star Tribune, The Houston Chronicle, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, Detroit News, ABC 15 Phoenix, The Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, NBC Chicago, 1010 WINS NYC, and CPR News Denver.

“You’ve got to arrest people. You have to track people. You have to put them in jail for 10 years, and you’ll never see this stuff again,” said Trump. “We’re doing it in Washington, D.C. We’re going to do something that people haven’t seen before.”

The president told the governors they were making themselves “look like fools” for not calling up more of the National Guard as a show of force on city streets.

You’ve got to arrest people. You have to track people. You have to put them in jail for 10 years, and you’ll never see this stuff again. We’re doing it in Washington, D.C. We’re going to do something that people haven’t seen before.”

— Donald Trump

Attorney General Bill Barr, who was also on the call, told governors that a joint terrorist task force would be used to track agitators and urged local officials to “dominate” the streets and control — not react to — crowds. He urged the governors to “go after troublemakers.”

Trump’s angry exhortations at the nation’s governors came after a Sunday night of escalating violence. Images of fires, looting and clashes with police filled the nation’s airwaves and overshadowed the largely peaceful protests. The protests had grown so heated Friday night that the Secret Service rushed the president to an underground bunker previously used during terrorist attacks.

On Monday, Trump also spoke of trying to criminalize flag-burning. The Supreme Court has conservative new members since it last ruled on that issue, and Trump said, “I think it’s time to review that again.”

President Trump in a blue suit with a red tie gestures as he walks across the South Lawn of the White House.
President Donald Trump gestures as he walks across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington May 30 after stepping off Marine One as he returns from Kennedy Space Center for the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch. (PATRICK SEMANSKY/AP)

As cities have burned night after night and images of violence have dominated television coverage, Trump’s advisers have discussed the prospect of an Oval Office address in an attempt to ease tensions. The notion was quickly scrapped for lack of policy proposals and the president’s own seeming disinterest in delivering a message of unity.

Trump did not appear in public on Sunday and was not scheduled to appear on Monday either.

The demonstrations in Washington appeared to catch officers by surprise. They sparked one of the highest alerts at the White House complex since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

Demonstrators returned Sunday afternoon, facing off against police at Lafayette Park into the evening. Trump retweeted a message from a conservative commentator encouraging authorities to respond with greater force.

“This isn’t going to stop until the good guys are willing to use overwhelming force against the bad guys,” Buck Sexton wrote in a message amplified by the president.

In recent days security at the White House has been reinforced by the National Guard and additional personnel from the Secret Service and the U.S. Park Police.

The Justice Department deployed members of the U.S. Marshals Service and agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration to supplement National Guard troops outside the White House, according to a senior Justice Department official. The official could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

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