Trump tells governors to 'dominate' as he shrinks from crisis role

Noah Bierman, Eli Stokols and Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- As dozens of American cities have recoiled with violence, anger and property damage, President Donald Trump has been silent, save for his angry Twitter finger.

"A national Oval Office address is not going to stop Antifa," his press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, told Fox News on Monday, blaming the amorphous left-wing group, which the White House has also sought to blame for violent protests, for the president's absence from the public stage.

As strong as the nation's divisions have been under Trump, there has been rare agreement on the point McEnany implicitly endorsed: Neither on the left nor the right are there many who believe Trump could deliver the kind of healing address to the country that most presidents try to muster in times of national fissure.

"There's an overwhelming body of evidence out there about how incapable most Americans think he is of handling a moment like this, someone whose whole entire political predicate was based on division," said Cornell Belcher, formerly a pollster for Barack Obama. "How, in a moment when we need a unified voice, can he step in and lead? He can't."

Not only has Trump avoided a formal address to the nation about the killing of a black man in Minnesota at the hands of police and the string of increasingly violent protests that have followed. After staying out of sight Sunday, his schedule Monday had no public events, a rarity for the media-hungry president.

During a private call with governors Monday, the president, who tweeted Saturday that looting leads to "shooting," continued to push for a harsher crackdown by police.


"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," Trump told governors, according to audio of the call obtained by CBS News.

A person with knowledge of Trump's call with governors described the president as "bellicose," raising the possibility of military action and describing the situation as a war.

"Most of you are weak," Trump said, berating the governors and urging them to "dominate" the protesters, according to a second person on the call.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, took issue with Trump's claim that "the world is laughing" at the urban uprisings across America.


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