Brett Samuels, et al., The Hill, June 1, 2020
President Trump pressed the nation’s governors to crack down on protesters during a phone call Monday after a night of violent demonstrations in cities across the U.S., according to multiple sources familiar with the call.
One source familiar with the call said that Trump told governors to “dominate” and “take back your streets.” Trump was sharply critical of local leaders on the call, castigating them as being “weak” in response to the demonstrations, according to another source.
The president held the call with state leaders as protests persisted nationwide in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for roughly eight minutes. The officer who pinned Floyd to the ground with his knee was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter last week.
“This call was insane,” said one source briefed on the call. “They just went off on governors.”
Attorney General William Barr said he wanted protesters charged with federal crimes, according to the source. Barr has in recent days emphasized that it is a crime to cross state lines to engage in violence, and the administration as a whole has fixated on Antifa, a loose movement of anti-fascists.
“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 unrest since Saturday afternoon, when he called Floyd’s death a “grave tragedy” and said his memory was being “dishonored by rioters, looters, and anarchists.”
The president has called for “law and order” and urged governors to activate the National Guard and crack down more strongly on protesters. Currently, about half of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., have activated the National Guard to handle the protests.
He told governors on Monday’s call that states had to start arresting people and “you have to put them in jail for 10 years and you’ll never see this stuff again,” according to a recording obtained by CBS News.