- Trump had a rather unusual call with US governors in June 2020, according to a forthcoming book.
- In the call, Trump called on governors to show dominance in the face of the Floyd protests.
- According to the book, Maine Governor Janet Mills said she thought Trump was having a “nervous breakdown.”
In the wake of the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody in May 2020, millions of Americans took to the streets to protest the manner in which he was killed while calling for greater attention to criminal justice reform in the United States. all United States.
However, Trump was not interested in the protests surrounding Floyd’s death, and in a phone call with the governors he stressed that they must show a show of force against the activism that was increasingly becoming part of the national conversation. , according to an upcoming book by New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns.
In the book This Shall Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future, Martin and Burns wrote that during a June 2020 conversation with governors who were in office at the time, one of them commented that the then-president seemed to be having a “nervous breakdown”.
“If the killing of George Floyd propelled Biden into a slightly more active campaign mode, it seemed to trigger something else entirely in Trump,” Martin and Burns wrote, also citing his struggles in handling the coronavirus pandemic. “The president was tired, it seemed, of feeling victimized by forces beyond his control. He wanted to be in charge and he wanted the public to know that he was in charge.”
In the June call with governors, Trump was joined by then-Attorney General Bill Barr and then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Martin and Burns wrote that it was “immediately clear” to the leaders that they would attend a meeting like no other.
“Trump called racial justice protesters across the country ‘terrorists’ and urged governors to demand ‘retaliation’ while demanding a speedy return to law and order,” Martin and Burns wrote. “Esper, a graduate of West Point and a former Raytheon executive, advised governors that they should try to “dominate the battlefield” in their states. Later that day, in the Rose Garden, Trump threatened to deploy federal troops if the governors did so. he’s not moving fast enough.”
They continued: “Executives were in shock. Earlier at the governor’s residence in Salem, Oregon, Democratic Governor Kate Brown called her husband in a nearby room: You have to listen to what this guy is saying.”
According to Martin and Burns, he added, “You can’t make this shit up. You can’t believe this is happening in the United States of America.”
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills of Maine, who is currently serving her first term, was sitting in her office at the state Capitol in Augusta during the call and was surprised by the tone of Trump’s conversation.
According to Martin and Burns, Mills called his security guard to listen to the then president.
“You have to sit here and listen to this because I think the president of the United States is having a nervous breakdown or something, and it’s scary,” he said at the time.
Later that day, Trump, along with Gen. Mark Milley, Esper and several other advisers, walked from the White House compound to nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church.
The now-infamous photo op, which showed the president holding a bible in front of the church after protesters were violently evicted from Lafayette Park, immediately drew criticism. However, the Department of the Interior’s inspector general determined in June 2021 that Park Police and the US Secret Service did not clear the park for a Trump photo op, but to install anti-lime fences.
A Trump representative did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.