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President Trump fired off a series of tweets Friday that appeared to encourage citizens in states protesting strict coronavirus lockdown orders to “LIBERATE” themselves from their governors — specifically, Democratic governors in states that could be important in the presidential election.
Two minutes after Fox News aired a segment on a Minnesota protest against social distancing orders issued by Gov. Tim Walz, Trump hit the all-caps key and threw his support behind those angry about the restrictions.
The president then targeted two more states where protests had erupted on Thursday.
In Michigan, where more than 29,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has put in place strict stay-at-home orders. Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, which has reported more than 7,400 cases, has done the same. Their orders were based on the federal guidelines that Trump himself issued in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Other states, including some with Republican governors, have enacted similar restrictions.
“When you see a political rally — that’s what it was yesterday — a political rally where people aren’t wearing masks and they’re in close quarters and they’re touching one another, you know that that’s precisely what makes this kind of disease drag out and expose more people,” Whitmer said in an interview with MSNBC.
Trump’s tweets targeting swing states with Democratic governors came the day after he unveiled new criteria for the lifting of stay-at-home orders that he said “will allow governors to take a phased and deliberate approach to reopening their individual states.” During the course of the week, he has at different times claimed “total authority” to overrule governors on emergency measures and said he would defer to their decisions.
At his Thursday evening press briefing, Trump declined to condemn protesters, many of whom wore clothing or carried banners supporting him, saying, “I think they’re listening, I think they listen to me.”
“There’s death and there’s problems in staying at home too,” Trump said when asked about the protesters. “It’s not just, ‘Isn’t it wonderful to stay at home?’ They’re suffering. This country wasn’t built on that principle. It was built on an exact opposite principle, actually.”
Approximately 95 percent of Americans are living under social distancing restrictions, and Trump, who first floated the idea of resuming normal activity on Easter Sunday before his coronavirus advisers convinced him it wouldn’t be safe, has since been pushing for governors to lift them by May 1.
While 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the country went into near lockdown, a Pew Research poll released Thursday found that 66 percent of those surveyed said that they feared that state governments would lift restrictions too soon.
As of Friday, nearly 673,000 Americans had tested positive for the coronavirus, and more than 33,000 had died.
In RealClearPolitics’ average of polls, former Vice President Joe Biden leads Trump by an average of 4.4 points in Michigan, by 7.3 points in Virginia and by 12 points in Minnesota.
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