Maine governor thought Trump was having a 'nervous breakdown' during a call on which he complained about George Floyd protests: book

Trump Esper Milley
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, President Donald Trump, center, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley, right, wait for a meeting with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House on October 7, 2019.BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images
  • Trump had a rather unusual call with the US governors in June 2020, per a forthcoming book.

  • In the call, Trump called on the governors to show dominance in the face of the Floyd protests.

  • Per the book, Maine Gov. Janet Mills said that she thought Trump was having a "nervous breakdown."

In the aftermath of George Floyd's death 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 throughout the United States.

However, Trump was not keen on the protests surrounding Floyd's death, and in a phone call with governors stressed that they needed to display a show of force against the activism that was increasingly becoming a part of the national conversation, according to a forthcoming book by 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 remarked that the then-president seemed to be having a "nervous breakdown."

"If the murder of George Floyd spurred Biden into a slightly more active mode of campaigning, it seemed to trigger something else entirely in Trump," Martin and Burns wrote, where they also mentioned his struggles in handling the coronavirus pandemic. "The president was tired, it seemed, of feeling like the victim of 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-Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Martin and Burns wrote that it was "immediately clear" to the leaders that they would be attending a meeting unlike any other.

"Savaging the racial-justice protestors around the country as 'terrorists,' Trump urged the governors to exact 'retribution' while demanding a swift return to public order," Martin and Burns wrote. "Esper, a buttoned-down West Point graduate and former Raytheon executive, advised the governors that they should seek to 'dominate the battlespace' in their states. In the Rose Garden later that day, Trump threatened to deploy federal troops if the governors did not move swiftly enough."

They continued: "The executives were in shock. Up early at the governor's residence in Salem, Oregon, the Democratic governor, Kate Brown, called out her husband in a nearby room: You've got to hear what this guy is saying."

According to Martin and Burns, she added: "You can't make this shit up. You cannot believe that this is happening in the United States of America."

Democratic Gov. 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 taken aback by the tone of Trump's conversation.

According to Martin and Burns, Mills called over her security guard to listen to the then-president.

"You gotta 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 Gen. Mark Milley, Esper, and several other advisors, walked from the White House complex 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 protestors were violently cleared from Lafayette Park, immediately attracted criticism. However, the inspector general for the Interior Department determined in June 2021 that the US Park Police and Secret Service did not clear the park for a Trump photoshoot, but to install anti-scale fencing.

A representative for Trump did not immediately return Insider's request for comment.

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