Trump hands remaining tough coronavirus decisions to governors

Trump hands remaining tough coronavirus decisions to governors

Trump hands remaining tough coronavirus decisions to governors

Trump hands remaining tough coronavirus decisions to governors

Most of the remaining tough decisions that will shape how the coronavirus outbreak will play out on United States soil will be made in state capitals — not Washington.

That was the message over and over during White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany‘s second press briefing, as she time and again put the onus for a list of unresolved issued on state governors.

“We have this beautiful concept called federalism. It’s a governor’s decision,” Ms McEnany said when pressed about why some state leaders are not following Trump administration-crafted guidelines for reopening states.

Mr Trump has shifted in recent weeks from focusing publicly on the federal effort to deal with the outbreak of the respiratory disease to a message focused almost exclusively on revving up the US economy, which has been crippled by Covid-19. Once gearing up for a reelection campaign based on a strong economy, Mr Trump is now trying to run against former Vice President Joe Biden with record unemployment just six months from election day.

Some decisions, however, will be made by unelected officials — not governors or even the mayors of cities. An example is whether or not to wear a mask in public.

Doing so is “recommended” by the Trump administration, “but that’s the choice of the individual,” Ms McEnany said as the White House faces accusations from Democratic leaders that it is essentially passing the buck to state and local leaders.

“The president has said governors” have the “freedom to make” decisions on keeping restrictions in place in their states or lifting them, she said.

She was pressed about what several specific governors are doing, some breaking from the White House’s suggested mitigation or re-opening guidelines. Each time, she put responsibility to make — and, by extension, any potential negative fallout — squarely on those state leaders’ shoulders.

“The governor is free to reach out to us. We are happy to consult with regard to specifics,” she said with a smile.

Ms McEnany insisted during her prepared opening statement included a line that the president has “always” listened to health experts. Democratic officials contend the opposite is true, however.

During an exchange with reporters earlier in the Oval Office, Mr Trump called Rick Bright, the ousted former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, who on Tuesday filed a complaint saying he was ousted for pushing back against the president’s policies a “disgruntled guy”.

He sidestepped a question about whether he intended to slap new tariffs on China due to what he says is a “cover up” by the government there of the Covid-19 outbreak. But told reporters he would have more to say on the topic by the “end of next week” and suggested he was unhappy with Beijing because it was not buying US farm products at the rate Xi Jinping agreed to in a recent trade pact.

Ms McEnany was pressed to define the current US-China relationship. She called it one of “disappointment and frustration”.

White House foes have warned the president and his allies would try to discredit another whistleblower to tamp down any public pressure to both reinstate Mr Bright and avoid directly addressing the red flags he has waved about the administration’s Covid-19 response.

There are now at least 72,000 dead in the United States due to the coronavirus, with at least 1.2m cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

Some critics of the president contend he is playing a political game, and is paying less and less attention to the health crisis.

“Trump is counting on the notoriously short attention span of American voters — after all, who remembers kids in cages, Hurricane Maria, Russian interference in 2016 or impeachment? Who will remember he grossly mismanaged a pandemic by November? I hope we disappoint him this time,” tweeted Joyce Vance, a former United States attorney who now teaches at the University of Alabama.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, told MSNBC she has calculated that Mr Trump has essentially “washed his hands” of the Covid-19 pandemic and has declared victory even as it continues to spread, including to rural areas.

But at the White House, Mr Trump and his new top spokeswoman were in full campaign mode, referring to Americans as “warriors” for staying home and adhering to other anti-coronavirus suggestions and orders.

“They’re warriors because they stayed home. They’re warriors because they’ve social distanced,” Ms McEnany said, echoing her boss by declaring the United States is engaged in a “war” with an “invisible enemy”.

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