WASHINGTON — President Trump upbraided several governors in a tense call Monday after days of rioting nationwide amid the marches over the police-custody killing of George Floyd in Minnesota — telling the state leaders they would look “weak” if they didn’t come down harder on protesters, and singling out New York and the NYPD over the looting that gripped the city over the weekend.
The president began the conference call by criticizing governors for their response to the week-long crisis, saying they were being soft on demonstrators — many who have co-opted the outcry over Floyd’s death for their own purposes with mass looting and violence possibly prompted by outside organizations.
“You have to dominate,” Trump told state leaders on the call, according to audio obtained by the New York Times.
“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,” he continued on the recording.
“You have to arrest people, and you have to try people, and they have to go to jail for long periods of time,” he said.
The Queens-born president ripped into the response to protests and the violence and looting that has erupted on city streets in New York, calling it “a disaster.”
“I don’t know what happened to New York’s Finest,” he said, referring to the city police force.
“They need to do their jobs. I don’t know what’s happening in Manhattan but it’s terrible. Because it’s New York, because it’s Manhattan, it gets a lot of press so they really spent a lot of time on it but New York is going to have to toughen up,” he continued.
“We’ll send you the National Guard if you want. You have the largest police force in the country, 40,000 people I understand, but what’s going on in New York is terrible, it’s terrible, of all the places,” he said.
Asked about Trump’s comments at his daily coronavirus briefing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended New York’s police forces and rebuffed the president’s offer.
“I’ve made it clear in this state any resources that any city needs, we will provide and we have been. State police have been doing an extraordinary job working with local police departments and we have 13,000 National Guard who we can use at any moment,” Cuomo told reporters.
The president also reportedly clashed with Illinois’ Democratic Governor J.B. Priztker, who confronted Trump about his comments during the crisis.
“I have been extraordinarily concerned with the rhetoric coming out of the White House,” Priztker said, per a Huffington Post report.
“I don’t like your rhetoric either,” Trump responded.
Minnesota‘s Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, meanwhile, backed Trump’s decision to send in the National Guard on the call — acknowledging that the situation de-escalated after thousands of troops were deployed on Minneapolis streets over the weekend after Floyd’s death on Monday, a source on the call said.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president wanted more National Guard troops used in cities currently facing unrest, with more than 300,000 citizen soldiers available.
“The focus of the call with governors was really the National Guard, encouraging the deployment, far more than the 17,000 out there, and using them,” McEnany said at a press briefing on Monday afternoon.
“He’s encouraging the governors to up those levels but there’s not a specific number that he has in mind,” she added.
There are 17,000 soldiers deployed in 24 states while two states have dispatched more than 1,000, McEnany told reporters.
According to an audio of the session obtained by CNN, Trump told lawmakers that Minnesota was “a laughing stock all over the world” after demonstrators torched a Minneapolis police precinct.
“I’ve never seen anything like it and the whole world was laughing. Two days later, I spoke to the governor… I said you gotta use the National Guard in big numbers,” Trump said, per the recording.
“They didn’t at first and then they did and I’ll say, I don’t know what it was, it was the third night, those guys flew through that stuff like it was butter, they walked right through and you haven’t had any problems since.
“I mean they know they’re not going to go there, they’ll go to some other place. You took the worst place and you made it — they didn’t even cover it last night because there was so little action. Because you dominated, you dominated,” he said of Minnesota’s national guard response.