US President Donald Trump threatened to unleash “vicious dogs” on protesters who gathered outside the White House, as he and his family were first ushered into an underground bunker.
Now Mr Trump is demanding “weak” state governors “get much tougher” to stop the violence which has stemmed from demonstrations over the death of George Floyd.
“Most of you are weak,” he told governors during a heated phone call. “You have to arrest people”.
The president has mostly kept clear of public appearances in the past six days of protests since horrifying video emerged of a policeman holding his knee to Mr Floyd’s neck, preferring to post tweets instead.
In a move prompting more criticism Mr Trump really had ‘switched off’, on Monday (Australian time) lights of the White House that illuminate the iconic facade were turned off. Historically, they are only switched off when a president dies.
A leaked phone call has since emerged showing how Mr Trump has been berating state governors over the continuing civil unrest.
In the phone call, leaked to US media on Tuesday morning, governors call on Mr Trump to calm the protesters and show them their concerns over the death of Mr Floyd are being heard.
“People are feeling real pain out there and we’ve got to have national leadership in calling for calm,” CNN reported one governor told Mr Trump during a testy exchange.
Mr Trump said governors had made themselves “look like fools” by not cracking down enough on the people who had turned to violence and looting during the protests.
“They’re going to run over you. You’re going to look like a bunch of jerks….you have to dominate,” he said.
Calling on more states to bring in the National Guard, Mr Trump used the example of Minnesota – telling the governors the national security team had walked through the crowd “like butter”.
For the first time since 1889, the lights of the White House were turned off, The President Donald Trump takes refuge in the bunker, and fires are started in the surroundings. Explosions, protests and injuries reported in Washington, D.C.#BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/I6m9khHvlv
— ven (@hiddlesgold) June 1, 2020
Trumps hid in bunker during protests
The Secret Service reportedly rushed Mr Trump, first lady Melania and son Barron into the bunker on Friday night US time, as masses surged the White House amid the protests in response to police brutality against African Americans.
The family was underground for less than an hour as crowds swelled at the gates; throwing bottles at Secret Service officers and attempting to push their way through metal barriers.
Inside – whether in the bunker or above ground – Mr Trump was firing out tweets, as troops outside lobbed tear gas canisters into the crowd.
The New York Times reported the President and his family were “rattled” by the protests.
Breaking: Aerial footage shows smoke billowing from Washington, D.C., as rioters have started multiple fires near the White House. pic.twitter.com/yV53mFhPbP
— PM Breaking News (@PMBreakingNews) June 1, 2020
Either while he was in the bunker or when he returned upstairs, Mr Trump used Twitter to warn protesters of what lay ahead of them.
He thanked the Secret Service, saying he “couldn’t have felt more safe” as he watched “every move” from inside the White House.
“They let the ‘protestors’ scream (and) rant as much as they wanted, but whenever someone got too frisky or out of line, they would quickly come down on them, hard – didn’t know what hit them,” the President said in a thread of tweets.
He even alluded to what would await anyone who breached the perimeters.
“If they had they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen,” he continued.
“That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least. Many Secret Service agents just waiting for action. ‘We put the young ones on the front line, sir, they love it, and good practice’.”
The Lamestream Media is doing everything within their power to foment hatred and anarchy. As long as everybody understands what they are doing, that they are FAKE NEWS and truly bad people with a sick agenda, we can easily work through them to GREATNESS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2020
Safety below the surface
The White House bunker the Trump family was led to was the same one used by then-vice president Dick Cheney during the September 11 attacks.
It has been built to withstand the power of a plane crashing into the White House.
Much of the underground infrastructure at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was built under the reign of president Harry Truman, when the property underwent massive renovations, between 1948 and 1952.
— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) June 1, 2020
While a rudimentary bunker was built in World War II, the Truman administration overhauled the facilities, including refurbishing the Presidential Emergency Operations Centre.
After 9/11, president George Bush and first lady Laura Bush were among White House officials rushed into the bunker in the days following the attack.
Mrs Bush recounted being ushered into the depths of the White House in her memoir: “I was hustled inside and downstairs through a pair of big steel doors that closed behind me with a loud hiss, forming an airtight seal. I was now in one of the unfinished subterranean hallways underneath the White House, heading for the PEOC, the Presidential Emergency Operations Centre, built for President Franklin Roosevelt during World War II,” the memoir reads.
“We walked along old tile floors with pipes hanging from the ceiling and all kinds of mechanical equipment.”
The Bush administration found the limitations of the bunker, and work began to further upgrade it to modern standards.
In 2010, under Barack Obama, there were swirling rumours of a super bunker being built under the North Lawn.
Former Washington Post journalist Ronald Kessler released The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game, which detailed the construction of such a project.
“At least five [storeys] deep, the bunker, which was completed near the end of Obama’s tenure, can house the staff of the entire West Wing indefinitely in the event of a weapons of mass destruction attack,” Kessler wrote in his 2018 book.
“After Trump became president, top staffers toured the bunker, whose existence is classified.”