Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Trump's rhetoric "is making it worse" as civil unrest continues across the country

By Sean Neumann
June 01, 2020 05:19 PM
Protestors outside of the White House on May 30, 2020.
Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Multiple governors across the country denounced President Donald Trump's rhetoric regarding the use of force by police against Americans protesting the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old black man who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25.

During a phone call on Monday morning, Trump, 73, called the governors "weak" and criticized their responses to protests in dozens of cities across the country. The president emphasized the increased use of the National Guard, and encouraged more arrests while telling governors they need to "get much tougher."

Audio of the call was leaked to multiple media outlets across the country and published online by PBS.

"You have to dominate," Trump told the governors. "If you don't dominate, you're wasting your time. They're going to run over you and you're going to look like a bunch of jerks. You have to dominate. You have to arrest people and you have to try people and they have to go to jail for long periods of time."

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker told Trump during the call that he was "extraordinarily concerned" about the president's message.

"We've called out our National Guard and our State Police, but the rhetoric that's coming out of the White House is making it worse," Gov. Pritzker said Monday, according to the Chicago Tribune, who cited a transcript of the call. "And I need to say that people are feeling real pain out there and we’ve got to have national leadership in calling for calm and making sure that we’re addressing the concerns of the legitimate peaceful protesters. That will help us to bring order."

Trump told Pritzker, "I don't like your rhetoric much either."

Volunteers in Minneapolis clean up on Saturday on May 30, 2020 after a night of protests
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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said after the call that Trump's comments have been "deeply disturbing," according to The Washington Post.

"The president’s dangerous comments should be gravely concerning to all Americans, because they send a clear signal that this administration is determined to sow the seeds of hatred and division, which I fear will only lead to more violence and destruction," Whitmer said in a statement, The Post reported. "We must reject this way of thinking."

Also, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz told Trump on Monday's call that there's "legitimate anger" in Minneapolis, where the nationwide protests began in the wake of Floyd's killing by police last week. After the call, Walz told reporters that he "took issue with Trump's emphasis on a 'posture of force,' " the Post also reported.

Walz also said he disagreed with Trump's belief that the government needs to increase its show of force, which the president repeated throughout the phone call. "It's the antithesis of how we live. It's the antithesis of civilian control," said Walz, who instructed the National Guard to begin returning home on Monday following a night of mostly peaceful protests in the Minneapolis area, according to the Star Tribune.

Demonstrators, gathered at Lafayette Park across from the White House, face a police barricade during a protest over the death of George Floyd, on May 30, 2020.
Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

As protests broke out in cities nationwide following Floyd's death, many have questioned why Trump has yet to publicly address the country during a briefing or press conference.

The killing of Floyd was caught on camera and resulted in widespread outrage across the country. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was fired and arrested on third-degree murder charges, while three other officers involved were also fired. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told CNN he believes the three officers with Chauvin were "complicit" in Floyd's death.

And peaceful protests turned violent in multiple major cities around the country.

In Washington D.C., the White House briefly went on lockdown and Trump was ushered into an underground bunker after protests grew more chaotic outside. Critics have since lauded the preemptive security measure, sparking the hashtag #BunkerBoy to go viral on Twitter.

Demonstrators gather to protest the killing of George Floyd on May 30, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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Protesters clash with police in Chicago on May 30, 2020.
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During her press briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany rejected the idea that Trump has been silent on the protests. Instead, McEnany, 32, pointed to Trump's tweets over the weekend, which have been widely shunned by other government leaders who said the president is inciting more unrest.

Trump told governors on Monday that the country needs "law and order," echoing the rhetoric he's used on social media in recent days to call for more government-backed force against protesters.

On Sunday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told CNN's State of the Union that Trump's recent rhetoric has been "not helpful."

"It's not lowering the temperature," Hogan, a Republican, said. "It's sort of continuing to escalate the rhetoric. And I think it's just the opposite of the message that should have been coming out of the White House."