Maine Gov. Janet Mills warned President Donald Trump twice on Monday that his scheduled visit to the state on Friday "might create unrest" there amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and surge of nationwide protests.
The White House said Trump, 73, is still set to visit the state on Friday, despite the governor's warning that it could lead to an unruly situation as protests continue to take place nationwide following the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old black man who was killed in Minneapolis by a white police officer.
Trump is scheduled to visit the Puritan Medical Products facility in Guilford, Maine, on Friday. The facility is one of two in the world where cotton swabs for COVID-19 tests are made, according to the Portland Press Herald.
“I am very concerned that your presence may cause security problems for our state," Gov. Mills, 72, told Trump during the president's phone call with state leaders on Monday morning. (Audio of Trump's call with the U.S. governors was leaked to multiple news organizations. PBS published the recording online.)
"Alright, we’ll look into that,” Trump responded before indicating that there was a large event being planned. "We have a tremendous crowd of people showing up, as you know,” he said.
Later on Monday, Mills voiced her concerns about Trump's visit again during a press conference, telling reporters she knows Trump will make his "own decision about whether to visit Maine," despite the state's security concerns and lack of information about the president's visit.
"I have no doubt he'll make that decision himself," Mills said. "Some people will warmly welcome his visit, while others will reject it, gathering to protest and welcome the visit with equal fervor. All the while this pandemic rages."
Mert Alper Dervis/Anadolu Agency via Getty Protesters hold up signs in Vancouver, British Columbia in western Canada. Protests following the killing of George Floyd have sparked around the U.S. and other countries around the world.
John Moore/Getty Images Protests in New York City on May 31, 2020.
The coronavirus pandemic has killed at least 104,700 people in the U.S. as of June 1, according to a New York Times tracker. In Maine, 89 people have died.
The global pandemic virtually has shut down normalcy in the U.S. for nearly three months. This weekend, the health crisis took a backseat as thousands of Americans gathered in cities across the country to protest Floyd's death.
Trump encouraged police and the U.S. National Guard to increase the use of force against protesters in his tweets over the weekend. He then called many governors "weak" on Monday, criticizing their response to the weekend's civil unrest which left cities ablaze across the country and more Americans dead.
Mills joined a number of other state leaders who denounced the president's message.
“Words have power and none are more powerful than the words of the president of the United States,” Mills said during her afternoon press conference. “Instead of hearing the cries for justice from concerned Americans, instead of offering a path forward for meaningful change, and instead of working with the governors to root out any bad actors who might be using this unrest to pillage communities that they do not belong to, the president instead lashed out in anger at everybody with no empathy for those who are calling out injustice.”
JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images A protester walks past a burning vehicle in Seattle, Washington on May 30.
Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images A firework explodes near a police line during a protest in response to the police killing of George Floyd on May 30, 2020, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Mills, a former prosecutor, also slammed Trump and Attorney General William Barr for failing to give clear direction after telling state officials to ramp up the power of their local law enforcement, signaling a breakdown in communication between the state and federal government on a number of issues.
"[Trump] told us, the governors, that we needed to arrest people," she said. "He told us we needed to prosecute people and put them in jail for 10 years. He told us we needed to ‘dominate the streets’ and ‘dominate the towns and cities’ and ‘dominate the people.’ "
Trump and Barr told governors they had information that linked protestors to the radical leftist extremist groups, but failed to provide any evidence to the state officials on the call. Mills requested the federal government share that evidence, so governors can be prepared.
“We do have intelligence information,” Trump claimed, adding that his administration will “present it to the appropriate people.” Then, Trump todd Mills, "If you hear anything, let us know.
"Both the tone and the substance of the comments were troubling," Mills told reporters later, reprimanding the president for his divisive language.
“What we need now is not more unrest, not more violence," Mills said. "What we need now is not more hatred or division. Not more animosity or distrust. What we need now is empathy and compassion, courage, understanding. What we need now is leadership.”
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