Politics

Trump unloads on governors over George Floyd protests: 'Most of you are weak'

Key Points
  • President Trump lashed out governors during a teleconference, demanding that they use harsher tactics against people protesting the death of George Floyd.
  • "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 audio of the call.
  • Trump's call is only the latest example of the president angrily demanding more drastic actions be taken against the mass protests.
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Trump tells governors they 'have to dominate' and crack down on violence

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump lashed out at governors during a teleconference Monday following days of mass protests over the police killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis last week.

"You have to dominate, if you don't dominate you're wasting your time. They're going to run over you, you're going to look like a bunch of jerks," Trump admonished the governors, according to audio of the call first obtained by CBS News. 

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The president boasted that the nation's capital "was under very good control, but we're going to have it under much more control. We're going to pull in thousands of people."

Police stand by burning barricades in front of the White House during a protest against the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police in Washington, D.C. on May 31, 2020.
Samuel Corum | AFP | Getty Images

Following a weekend of fires and looting, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a citywide curfew on Monday beginning at 7 p.m.

Trump repeatedly encouraged the governors to take a harder line with protesters, who have taken to the streets in dozens of U.S. cities to protest police brutality against black Americans. 

The president's harsh rhetoric on the protests, which originated in Minneapolis, stands in sharp contrast to his recent call for governors to yield to the demands of protesters to reopen their states' economies amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"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 told the governors Monday. 

At least one Democratic governor, Jay Pritzker of Illinois, pushed back against the president during the call, reportedly telling Trump his divisive rhetoric wasn't helping the situation. 

"I don't like your rhetoric much either, especially with respect to coronavirus. You could've done a much better job," Trump replied, according to The New York Times' Nick Corasaniti. 

CNBC reached out to the White House about the call in general and specifically about the exchange with Pritzker. 

Attorney General Bill Barr also spoke to governors on the call, which was going on more than an hour after its 11 a.m. scheduled start time.

Barr reportedly told the governors "we have to control the streets," and said this would require "a strong presence" that included the National Guard. 

Governors in dozens of states have already mobilized state-based National Guard troops to help support local law enforcement. For now, National Guard units are being used primarily to secure public buildings, assist with surveillance and protect paramedics and emergency responders, not to interact directly with protesters. 

Later in the call, Trump also offered suggestions of how law enforcement should respond to aggressive protesters, saying, "you're allowed to fight back."

"When they have bricks — you know they come armed with bricks. And they have bricks and rocks, big rocks, and they have other big things, and they throw them. You know, you're allowed to fight back, folks," Trump told the governors. "You don't have to have a brick hit you in the face, and you don't do anything about it. You are allowed to fight back."

Turning to Barr, Trump said "Bill, if a brick is thrown at somebody, and it hits them, or maybe if it doesn't hit them, your very tough, strong, powerful people are allowed to fight back against that guy. And very strongly and powerfully."

Trump's phone call Monday is only the latest example of the president angrily demanding more drastic actions be taken against the mass protests.

Over the weekend, as protests erupted across the nation, Trump blamed Democratic mayors and governors, the media, the anarchist movement antifa, presumed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and "thugs" for the protests that turned violent in many cities. 

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Trump has not been seen in public since Saturday, when he attended the launch of a SpaceX rocket in Florida. Trump did not make any public appearances on Sunday, and he has no events on his schedule Monday that are open to the press.

Biden spent Monday visiting with African American religious leaders in Wilmington, Delaware, to talk about the protests and the anger over police brutality. Biden's event, unlike Trump's, was open to the press.

The former vice president is scheduled to host a teleconference on Monday afternoon with several big city mayors that will also be open to media.

Massive protests sprang up across the country in the past week after Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man, died in Minneapolis after being pinned to the ground by officer Derek Chauvin, who held his knee on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes. 

Chauvin, whose confrontation with Floyd was captured on video, was fired from the police department and later was arrested on charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter.

While the demonstrations were largely peaceful, violence and looting erupted in numerous cities over the weekend as groups of protesters clashed with law enforcement officers. At least 4,400 people have been arrested in connection with the protests, according to The Associated Press.