- Trump had a rather unusual liaison with US governors in June 2020, according to an upcoming book.
- In the call, Trump urged governors to show dominance in the face of Floyd protests.
- According to the book, Maine Governor Janet Mills said she thought Trump was having a “nervous breakdown”.
Following the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody in May 2020, millions of Americans took to the streets to protest the way he was killed while calling for greater attention to criminal justice reform in the United States.
However, Trump was not interested in the protests surrounding Floyd’s death and, in a phone call with the governors, stressed that they needed to display a show of force against the activism that was increasingly becoming part of the national conversation, according to with an upcoming book by The New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns.
In the book “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future,” Martin and Burns wrote that during a June 2020 conversation with the governors who were in office at the time, one of them commented that the then-president appeared to be having a “nervous breakdown”.
“While the murder of George Floyd spurred Biden into a slightly more active campaign mode, it seemed to spark something entirely different in Trump,” wrote Martin and Burns, where they also mentioned their struggles in dealing with 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 he was in charge.”
In the June call with the governors, Trump was joined by then-Attorney General Bill Barr and then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. Martin and Burns wrote that it was “immediately clear” to leaders that they would be attending a meeting unlike any other.
“Attacking racial justice protesters across the country as ‘terrorists,’ Trump urged governors to demand ‘retribution’ while demanding a speedy return to public order,” wrote Martin and Burns. “Esper, a West Point graduate and former Raytheon executive, advised governors to seek to ‘dominate the battlespace’ in their states. At Rose Garden later that day, Trump threatened to send in federal troops if the governors did so. . doesn’t move fast enough.”
They continued: “Executives were in shock. Early in the morning at the governor’s residence in Salem, Oregon, Democratic Governor Kate Brown called her husband into a nearby room: You need to hear what this guy is saying.”
According to Martin and Burns, she added, “You can’t make this shit up. You can’t believe this is happening in the United States of America.”
Democratic Governor Janet Mills of Maine, who is currently in 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 to hear from 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,” she said at the time.
Later that day, Trump, along with General Mark Milley, Esper, and several other advisers, walked from the White House compound to St. John, nearby.
The now infamous photo shoot, which showed the president holding a bible in front of the church after protesters were forcibly removed from Lafayette Park, immediately drew criticism. However, the Inspector General of the Department of the Interior ruled in June 2021 that the Parks Police and the US Secret Service did not clear the park for a Trump photo shoot, but to install anti-scale fences.
A Trump representative did not immediately return the Insider’s request for comment.