PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Democratic Gov. Janet Mills urged Republican President Donald Trump to “check the rhetoric at the door” when he pays a visit Friday to a manufacturer of specialized swabs used in testing for the coronavirus.
Mills criticized the president’s strident tone during a teleconference in which he accused governors of being “weak” and urged them to “dominate” towns and cities besieged by racial unrest and to arrest and imprison protesters.
“Abandon the divisive language that sows seeds of distrust among our people,” she said Monday. “Lead with trust and compassion.”
Guilford-based Puritan Medical Products is in the process of opening a second production site with a goal of roughly doubling monthly production to 40 million swabs per month by August or September.
The Trump administration is providing $75.5 million through the Defense Production Act to boost production. The Guilford-based company hopes to have the second production facility in Pittsfield running by July 1.
Word of the presidential visit came during a discussion between Trump and governors following a weekend of demonstrations, some violent, following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.
About 300 people in Maine’s largest city marched on Sunday, blocking traffic and leaving graffiti at the police headquarters.
But that was mild in comparison to damage and destruction caused by protests elsewhere around the country.
Trump urged governors to “dominate” the protesters: “You’ve got to arrest people, you have to track people, you have to put them in jail for 10 years and you’ll never see this stuff again.”
A former prosecutor and attorney general, Mills inquired about which federal statute would be used to charge protesters. She also asked the president about intelligence that he claimed to have linking protesters to the Occupy Wall Street movement. She said she didn’t get satisfactory answers.
The governor also commented about concerns about the president’s security, worried that his combative comments and lack of empathy could further rile protesters.
“What we need right now is to heal. To heal from this virus that is robbing citizens of their breath and their life, to heal from the actions that robbed George Floyd of his dignity, his breath, his life,” she said.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who’s seeking reelection and has criticized his actions at times, won’t be accompanying the president. She visited Puritan last month and will be working Friday in Washington.