President Donald Trump and Gov. Jay Inslee clashed Friday over the president’s apparent support of protests in some states against stay-home orders and the closure of some businesses to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Early Friday, Trump issued a series of tweets – “LIBERATE MINNESOTA”, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA and save your great 2nd Amendment” – as groups have or are planning protests to complain the orders are violating their constitutional rights.
Those comments came a day after Trump said only governors have the authority to lift restrictions and released federal recommendations to do so in phases with requirements for testing to keep a new outbreak in check.
Several states, including Michigan, already have seen protests in their state capitals seeking liberation from orders or descriptions of jobs as nonessential. A group calling itself Liberty at All Hazards is planning a protest Sunday afternoon in Olympia.
Inslee accused Trump of “fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies even while his own administration says the virus is real and is deadly, and that we have a long way to go before restrictions can be lifted.”
In an appearance on CNN on Friday afternoon, Inslee suggested Trump’s tweets were “unhinged,” adding that if he were talking to the president at that moment he’d urge him instead to “get on the team.”
“Stop trying to delay the progress we’re making,” Inslee said during an interview with Wolf Blitzer.
During the daily White House briefing on COVID-19 later Friday, Trump was asked by a reporter about Inslee’s comment about “fomenting rebellion.”
“Who said this?” Trump asked, not seeming to recognize the name of one of his most vocal critics among the nation’s governors.
The reporter repeated the name and asked how the calls for “liberation” square with the guidance released Thursday.
“I think we do have sobering guidance, but I think in some of the states it’s too tough,” he said. “I think elements of what they’ve done is too much.”
He criticized gun restrictions in Virginia –– passed by the Legislature, not part of an emergency order – that he believes violate the Second Amendment. Trump said he was surprised that Gov. Ralph Northam hasn’t received more resistance to those measures.
The president also declined to say which states should be open soon, saying that was up to the individual governors.
In an interview on CNN after the White House briefing, Inslee said the orders are based on advice from the nation’s health officials, including those who work for the White House.
“If they’re too tough, they’re his, and they were based on decent evidence,” he said.
The orders are the law in Washington and other states where they’ve been issued, and Trump is “willfully trying to inspire people to disobey the law,” which could have fatal consequences, he said.
When asked about the planned protest at the Capitol in Olympia during a news conference Thursday, Inslee said they were “welcome to express their First Amendment rights to say what they want to say.
“I do encourage them to socially distance when they do that, try to maintain 6 feet apart. … We care about your safety as well,” he said. “But I will say, if a thousand people show up this weekend, that would mean there would be 6,999,000 Washingtonians that care enough about their families to pitch in a little bit to try to prevent our loved ones from dying.”
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