As the country reels from nearly a week of intense protests marked by countless acts of police brutality, President Donald Trump on Monday pressured governors to deploy more aggressive and violent tactics against protesters, telling them they would look like “jerks” if they didn’t get tougher. He also threatened to unleash the powers of the Justice Department in order to empower law enforcement officials to “fight back” against demonstrators.
“You have to dominate,” Trump said on a private call with governors, according to reporting by multiple news outlets that obtained a recording of the explosive conversation. “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.”
“You’ve got to arrest people,” he continued. “You have to track people, you have to put them in jail for 10 years, and you’ll never see this stuff again.”
The seething remarks—which appear to rely on the same playbook Trump has used to blame governors for his administration’s disastrous coronavirus response—are all but certain to fuel the outrage reverberating throughout the country in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by a white police officer. They come against the backdrop of widely seen videos capturing police across the country attacking protesters.
Trump’s recent comments—which included an incendiary tweet warning that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”—have served only to heighten tensions. Despite drawing fierce condemnation over the tweet, he subsequently threatened to unleash “the most vicious dogs” on protesters and baselessly accused Democrats and the media of fueling unrest.