Trump in­sults gov­er­nors as ‘weak’

De­mands they get tough on pro­test­ers through­out the US

Orlando Sentinel - - Nation & World - By Jonathan Lemire, Zeke Miller and Alan Suderman

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Mon­day de­rided many gov­er­nors as “weak” and de­manded tougher crack­downs on burn­ing and steal­ing among some demon­stra­tions in the af­ter­math of un­rest in dozens of Amer­i­can cities.

Trump spoke to gov­er­nors on a video tele­con­fer­ence that also in­cluded law en­force­ment and na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cials, telling the state lead­ers they “have to get much tougher.”

“Most of you are weak,” Trump said. “You have to ar­rest people.”

The days of protests were trig­gered by last week’s death of Ge­orge Floyd, a black man who died when a white Min­neapo­lis po­lice of­fi­cer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for sev­eral min­utes even af­ter he stopped mov­ing and plead­ing for air. The demon­stra­tions turned vi­o­lent in sev­eral cities, with people trash­ing stores, smash­ing and burn­ing po­lice cars and ig­nit­ing fires in his­toric Lafayette Park near the White House.

The pres­i­dent urged gov­er­nors to de­ploy the Na­tional Guard, which he cred­ited for help­ing calm the sit­u­a­tion Sun­day night in Min­neapo­lis. He de­manded that sim­i­larly tough mea­sures be taken in cities that also ex­pe­ri­enced vi­o­lence, in­clud­ing New York, Philadel­phia and Los

An­ge­les.

“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,” said Trump. “We’re do­ing it in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. We’re go­ing to do some­thing that people haven’t seen be­fore.”

The pres­i­dent told gov­er­nors they were mak­ing them­selves “look like fools” for not call­ing up more of the Na­tional Guard as a show for force on city streets.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Bill Barr, who was also on the call, told gov­er­nors a joint ter­ror­ist task force would be used to track ag­i­ta­tors and urged lo­cal of­fi­cials to “dom­i­nate” the streets and con­trol, not re­act to crowds.

“Law en­force­ment re­sponse is not go­ing to work un­less we dom­i­nate the streets,” Barr said.

Trump’s an­gry ex­hor­ta­tions came af­ter a Sun­day night of es­ca­lat­ing vi­o­lence, im­ages of fires and loot­ing and clashes with po­lice fill­ing the na­tion’s air­waves and over­shad­ow­ing the largely peace­ful protests. The fall­out had grown so heated Fri­day night that the Se­cret Ser­vice rushed the pres­i­dent to an un­der­ground bunker pre­vi­ously used dur­ing ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

On Mon­day, Trump also spoke of try­ing to crim­i­nal­ize flag-burn­ing. The Supreme Court has con­ser­va­tive new mem­bers since it last ruled on that issue, and Trump said that “I think it’s time to re­view that again.”

He con­tin­ued his ef­fort to pro­ject strength, us­ing in­flam­ma­tory tweets and de­liv­er­ing par­ti­san at­tacks.

The demon­stra­tions in Wash­ing­ton ap­peared to catch of­fi­cers by sur­prise. They sparked one of the high­est alerts at the White House com­plex since the Sept. 11 at­tacks.

Trump has told ad­vis­ers he wor­ries about his safety, while both pri­vately and pub­licly prais­ing the work of the Se­cret Ser­vice.

In re­cent days se­cu­rity at the White House has been re­in­forced by the Na­tional Guard and ad­di­tional per­son­nel from the Se­cret Ser­vice and the U.S. Park Po­lice.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment de­ployed mem­bers of the U.S. Mar­shals Ser­vice and agents from the Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion to sup­ple­ment Na­tional Guard troops out­side the White House, ac­cord­ing to a se­nior Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cial. The of­fi­cial could not dis­cuss the mat­ter pub­licly and spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity.

Be­tween the protests and the re­sponse to the coro­n­avirus pandemic, the Na­tional Guard has been de­ployed at its high­est level in re­cent his­tory, sur­pass­ing the num­ber of troops sent to the Gulf Coast dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina in 2005. More than 66,700 sol­diers and air­man have been ac­ti­vated — 45,000 to as­sist with the pandemic and more than 17,000 to help with the protests.

Most of the pro­test­ers have been peace­ful and tried to dis­cour­age vi­o­lence. Trump, Barr and oth­ers have tried to blame some of the civil un­rest on left-wing ex­trem­ist groups, in­clud­ing an­tifa, and other “an­ar­chists.” Short for an­tifas­cists, an­tifa is an um­brella term for far-left­lean­ing militant groups that re­sist neo-Nazis and white su­prem­a­cists at demon­stra­tions.

The FBI is us­ing its net­work of re­gional joint ter­ror­ism task forces to “iden­tify crim­i­nal or­ga­niz­ers,” and fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors across the coun­try have been in­structed to share in­for­ma­tion and uti­lize fed­eral riot, ar­son or ter­ror statutes against any “vi­o­lent rad­i­cal ag­i­ta­tors” who at­tempt to hi­jack protests to cause de­struc­tion.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment has vowed to treat the “vi­o­lence in­sti­gated and car­ried out by an­tifa & other sim­i­lar groups” as do­mes­tic ter­ror­ism. Although there isn’t a spe­cific fed­eral do­mes­tic ter­ror­ism statute, pros­e­cu­tors could charge other of­fenses and seek en­hanced sen­tenc­ing.

The FBI has al­ready started ques­tion­ing ri­ot­ers who were ar­rested in sev­eral cities to de­ter­mine whether they com­mit­ted any fed­eral crimes, the se­nior Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cial said. It is a fed­eral crime to cross state lines to par­tic­i­pate in vi­o­lent ri­ots.

CAROLYN KASTER/AP 2019

Pres­i­dent Trump, seen with law en­force­ment mem­bers, wants gov­er­nors to stop re­cent un­rest na­tion­wide.

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