Governors across the United States are pushing back after Donald Trump during a conference call on Monday (June 1) accused them of being “weak” and urged them to "dominate" lawbreakers amid widespread protests. Many on the call rejected the president’s threat to dispatch federal troops in order to quell massive demonstrations sparked by George Floyd’s deadly encounter with police officers on Monday (May 25), NPR reports. "If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them," Trump insisted.
The U.S. Secret Service, uniformed officers, military police and additional law officers took drastic measures against peaceful protesters on June 1 as they fired tear gas to disperse the crowd outside of the White House, NPR reports. Meanwhile, Trump told state leaders he was already "dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property."
Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois responded to Trump’s inflammatory language by speaking up on the call and saying the “rhetoric coming out of the White House is making it worse," according to NPR. Trump reportedly responded with, “I don’t like your rhetoric that much either." Pritzker on Tuesday told NPR’s Morning Edition that what Trump is suggesting is “illegal.”
"The governor of a state has to ask for federal help,” Pritzker said. “I don’t know any governor that intends to do that. And secondly, you know, you can hear in his rhetoric that he is simply trying to make himself sound like a strong man—almost like a dictator as if he’s going to be responsible for bringing order all the way."
Here is transcript of a testy exchange between the president and @GovPritzker of Illinois, per person on call. pic.twitter.com/fNYW8BXkMs
rn— Katie Rogers (@katierogers) June 1, 2020
Trump took a tough line with the governors, saying he was putting Attorney General William Barr in charge of the federal law enforcement response. The president said the White House was "strongly looking for arrests."
"You have to arrest people and you have to try people. And they have to go to jail for long periods of time," the president said.
"If people are running amok, you have to dominate. If you aren’t dominating, you’re wasting your time," he said. "They’re going to run over you; you’re going to look like a bunch of jerks."
"It’s a movement. If you don’t put it down, it will get worse and worse," Trump said. "The only time it’s successful is when you’re weak and most of you are weak.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, democratic governor of Michigan, called the president’s words “dangerous.”
“The president’s dangerous comments should be gravely concerning to all Americans because they send a clear signal that this administration is determined to sow the seeds of hatred and division, which I fear will only lead to more violence and destruction,” Whitmer said. “We must reject this way of thinking. This is a moment that calls for empathy, humanity, and unity. This is one of the most challenging periods in our nation’s history, but as Americans, we must remember our enemy is racial injustice, not one another.”
The Republican governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker accused Trump of spewing “incendiary” words. “I heard what the president said today about dominating and fighting,” Baker said. “I know I should be surprised … but I’m not.”
“At so many times during these past several weeks when the country needed compassion and leadership the most it was nowhere to be found,” Baker continued. “Instead we got bitterness, combativeness and self-interest.”
According to NPR, Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told CNN that Trump is trying to distract the public with talk of looting and rioting. "He wants to make this about looting because he doesn’t want to talk about the killing of Mr. Floyd," Cuomo said. "[He] doesn’t want to really talk about racism and discrimination."