The president’s social media posts come as some conservative groups have grown frustrated with the local directives that have slammed the brakes on the U.S. economy, the strength of which had been a key selling point of Trump’s reelection effort.
Trump’s tweets also represent the latest salvo in a rhetorical back-and-forth between governors seeking more robust assistance from his administration and a president loathe to accept blame for a federal response that has been widely criticized as inadequate and slow- footed.
Amid the urgent state efforts, thousands of protesters – many wearing Trump paraphernalia – have congregated in recent days in the state capitals of Minnesota , Michigan and Virginia , defying stringent mitigation measures imposed by Democratic Govs. Tim Walz, Gretchen Whitmer and Ralph Northam.
The president’s suggestion that Americans should disobey state orders directly contradicts his own statements acknowledging governors’ authority to announce restrictions to combat the disease’s spread.
Asked about the demonstrations at his coronavirus press briefing Thursday, Trump declined to condemn them, instead noting that “they seem to be protesters that like me” and that the marchers had “been going through it a long time”
The remarks bore echos of the president’s refusal to condemn white supremacist marchers who gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 for a “Unite the Right” rally where a counter-protester was killed.
Trump, in the aftermath of that deadly clash, proclaimed that there had been “very fine people on both sides” of the rally, remarks for which he was widely rebuked.
The president’s apparent encouragement of the protesters Thursday also flies in the face of federal social-distancing guidance, which is in effect until the end of the month, as well as his administration’s new recommendations urging states to proceed with caution when reopening.
Discussing those guidelines Thursday, Trump acknowledged “every state is very different,” and said that “if they need to remain closed , we will allow them to do that. “
But the president, eager to restart the collapsing economy, was not so deferential earlier this week, and has vacillated wildly when discussing the nature of federal versus state powers as they apply to local stay-at-home orders.
On Sunday, Trump instructed governors to prepare their “testing programs & apparatus” to fight the outbreak, tweeting that states should “Be ready” and the federal government “is there to help.”
Trump insisted Monday, however, that he alone had the power to reopen the country – not governors – despite his reluctance to issue a nationwide stay-at-home order or any federally enforceable mitigation measures. Trump also argued that the president’s authority is “total,” and said governors “will agree to” his plans for emerging from state shutdowns .
After governors pushed back Tuesday against Trump’s assertion of complete federal power, he suggested the state leaders were involved in a “mutiny” against him, but later conceded he would “be authorizing” their individual reopening plans.