WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday lashed out at governors during a White House videoconference, telling them that “most of you are weak” after states grappled with another night of anger and unrest following the killing of George Floyd last week.
According to a source on the call, Trump was “annoyed” with the governors for their response to the protests and urged law enforcement to crack down and make more arrests. “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,” Trump said, according to the source.
Trump was described by one person on the call as “losing it,” with another saying the president called the governors “fools” and expressed anger with Democratic mayors in particular over the protests and unrest ravaging cities nationwide.
Trump said that other countries watching the situation unfold think Americans are pushovers.
“You have to dominate. If you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time,” the president said, according to a person listening in.
The president also called the initial response in Minneapolis “weak and pathetic” and said that protestors have likely spread out to other cities. The person said Trump seemed obsessed with “antifa,” or anti-fascists, and Occupy Wall Street, which he said was handled well by comparison and “just went away one day.”
During the call, Trump claimed to have intelligence showing who the “bad actors” and professional instigators are, though he did not elaborate.
Trump also asked states to enact laws against flag burning in what the source described it as “a rant.”
The White House billed the event as a “video teleconference with governors, law enforcement, and national security officials on keeping American communities safe.”
Several governors pushed back on Trump’s narrative, including J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, a Democrat, the source said. Maine Gov. Janet Mills, also a Democrat, said she was concerned about the president visiting her state this week “because of security.” Maine is home to Puritan Medical Products, the company the administration compelled through the Defense Production Act to produce coronavirus testing swabs.
Trump’s response to the unrest has been to call for stronger law enforcement rather than calling for calm or addressing the concerns about police brutality and racism that many protestors say drove them to come out. Critics say an escalation in force would exacerbate already high tensions between protestors and the police.
After another night of protests led to fires and vandalism blocks from the White House, Trump spent Monday morning on Twitter blaming the unrest on antifa and accusing staffers of former Vice President Joe Biden of “working to get the anarchists out of jail.”
Trump had no public events scheduled for Monday, after not appearing in public on Sunday.
Trump’s advisers have been divided over what role the president should take in responding to the widest unrest the country has seen in decades. Some say the president should focus his message on Floyd, the black man who died last week at the hands of Minneapolis police, and urge calm.
Others say the top priority is stopping the violence and looting that have taken place in some areas, arguing that the best path to that end is strong police tactics, not presidential speeches.
Peter Alexander and Alex Moe contributed.