Trump, Illinois governor spar during call over get-tough talk

Peter Szekely
U.S. President Trump holds photo opportunity in front of St John's Church in Washington

By Peter Szekely

(Reuters) - A conversation during which President Donald Trump urged U.S. state governors to crack down on nationwide protests became testy on Monday when Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker accused Trump of making the situation worse.

Trump, who last week tweeted “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” urged governors to get tough on disturbances following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in police custody in Minneapolis. A white officer has been charged.

In a recording of the conference call heard by Reuters, Trump said: "You have to dominate, 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 have to dominate."

Near the end of the nearly hour-long call, Pritzker, a Democrat, challenged the Republican president.

He called some of Trump's public statements inflammatory and unhelpful to governors and mayors trying, not always with success, to keep peaceful protests from boiling over into violence and looting.

"The rhetoric that’s been coming out of the White House has been making it worse," Pritzker said on the call. "We’ve got to have national leadership in calling for calm."

"I don’t like your rhetoric much either," Trump replied, adding that Floyd's death was "horrible" and that he had spoken of it "with great compassion."

White House representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the call.

Asked about it later, Pritzker said he decided to take Trump to task after other governors failed to "call it out."

"And so I spoke out and felt that was my obligation," he said. "I don't want to dominate peaceful protesters who have legitimate grievances. I do want us to put down the situations of people destroying property or violent behavior."

Having sent 375 National Guard troops to help restore order in Chicago, Pritzker said he was activating another 250 to help local officials in other parts of the state.


(Reporting by Peter Szekely; Additional reporting by Steve Holland, Lisa Lambert and David Shepardson; Editing by Howard Goller)