During a Monday phone call with the nation’s governors, President Donald Trump reportedly scolded them for being “weak” and urged them to “dominate” their streets to end violent protests that have raged for days after a black man died in police custody last week.
“Take back your streets,” Trump told governors, according to a source familiar with the call, The Hill reported.
Trump also suggested that states use National Guard troops to stop protesters who become violent or destructive, claiming that doing so has helped calm protests in Minneapolis after more than 130 businesses and goverment offices were looted and burned.
“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. “We’re doing it in Washington, D.C. We’re going to do something that people haven’t seen before.”
Trump sent to bunker amid protests
Protests in Washington, D.C. over the weekend saw Trump sent to an underground bunker for his own protection while 50 Secret Service agents suffered injuries carrying out their duties. National historic buildings and monuments were damaged and defaced by graffiti during the riots that ensued.
Attorney General William Barr, who was also on the call, said that the protesters were domestic terrorists and that some would be prosecuted federally. It is a federal crime to cross state lines and engage in violence, Barr has said in recent days, The Hill reported.
“Federal law enforcement actions will be directed at apprehending and charging the violent radical agitators who have hijacked peaceful protest and are engaged in violations of federal law,” Barr said in a statement Sunday.
Trump has not spoken publicly about the riots since Saturday, when he said George Floyd’s death at the hands of police was a “tragedy” but that rioters were “dishonoring” his memory with their violence.
Governors push back
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) said on the call that Trump was “making it worse” with his tweets and rhetoric, The Hill said.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) waited until after the call to jab Trump. “The president repeatedly and viciously attacked governors, who are doing everything they can to keep the peace while fighting a once-in-a-generation global pandemic,” she said.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) called on Trump to use the Insurrection Act to fight the protest. The act was used in 1992 during riots in Los Angeles, and it allows the president to call up active-duty troops to restore order on American soil.
As of Saturday, however, no plans to use that act were forthcoming, the Washington Post reported.