Pritzker tells Trump his rhetoric is 'making it worse' as protests rage on

  • J.B. Pritzker told President Donald Trump on Monday that "we've got to have national leadership in calling for calm."

    J.B. Pritzker told President Donald Trump on Monday that "we've got to have national leadership in calling for calm." File Photo

  • On Monday, President Donald Trump told the nation's governors that if you don't "dominate" protesters, "you're going to look like a bunch of jerks."

    On Monday, President Donald Trump told the nation's governors that if you don't "dominate" protesters, "you're going to look like a bunch of jerks." Associated Press/May 30

 
By Jerry Nowicki
Capitol News Illinois
jnowicki@capitolnewsillinois.com
Updated 6/1/2020 6:55 PM

SPRINGFIELD -- During a conference call Monday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker told President Donald Trump he took issue with his tone and lack of unifying response as protests raged around the country.

Trump admonished the governors for what he deemed a weak response to protests, which were sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Minneapolis man who died May 25 after being pinned to the ground for nearly nine minutes with a white police officer's knee on his neck.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"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," Trump told the governors, according to CBS news, which obtained audio recordings of the call.

The president called violent and destructive protesters "terrorists," according to audio of the phone call shared by The New York Times. He said the governors must charge those protesters with crimes and give them punishments lasting years.

"They're anarchists, whether you like it or not," Trump said in the call. "I know some of you guys have a different persuasion and that's OK, I totally understand. I understand. I'm for everybody. I'm representing everybody. I'm not representing radical right, radical left. I'm representing everybody. But you have to know what you're dealing with, and it's happened before. It's happened numerous times. And the only time it's successful is when you're weak."

Last week, Trump posted to Facebook and Twitter that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts." He has not formally addressed the nation since Floyd was killed or since widespread protesting began.

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"Someone throwing a rock is like shooting a gun," Trump told the governors in the Monday phone call. "You have to do retribution."

In response, Pritzker told Trump his rhetoric is making the situation worse.

"I wanted to take this moment -- and I can't let it pass -- to speak up and say that I've been extraordinarily concerned about the rhetoric that's been used by you," Pritzker said, according to a transcript. "It's been inflammatory, and it's not OK for that officer to choke George Floyd to death. But we have to call for calm. We have to have police reform called for. We've called out our National guard and our state police, but the rhetoric that's coming out of the White House is making it worse. And I need to say that people are feeling real pain out there and we've got to have national leadership in calling for calm and making sure that we're addressing the concerns of the legitimate peaceful protesters. That will help us to bring order."

Pritzker, as recently as last week, called Trump a "xenophobe" and a "racist" in a public news conference. Since he ran for governor in 2018, Pritzker has frequently criticized the president, and the pair has sparred about the federal government's novel coronavirus response.

"OK, well, thank you very much, JB," Trump said in response to the governor. "I don't like your rhetoric much either because I watched it with respect to the coronavirus, and I don't like your rhetoric much either. I think you could've done a much better job, frankly. But that's OK. And you know, we don't agree with each other."

With protests continuing in several Illinois cities Monday, Pritzker hosted a media availability from the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago and addressed the matter upon questioning.

"The truth is that the president has fanned the flames instead of bringing peace and calm," he said. "It is usually the job of the president to stand up in these circumstances and try to bring down the temperature; that's not what this president does."

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