Trump’s reluctance so far to come down on one side — or to strike a clear balance between the opposing sets of advice — has frustrated his allies and shaded, if not slowed, his response to nationwide protests arising since the death of George Floyd.

“These aren’t my voters,” the president has said repeatedly, dismissing protesters in discussions with aides about how to respond over nearly three weeks of unrest, according to three people familiar with the comments.

The president’s approach to what’s widely seen as a seminal moment for the country reflects his ambivalence about being anything other than a self-styled “president of law and order” and his stubborn adherence to tactics he believes have served him well politically, advisers inside and outside the White House say.