President Trump rallied behind anti-lockdown protesters Friday in a series of tweets that appeared to conflict with guidelines his own coronavirus task force issued the night before.
Trump’s tweets, which echoed slogans from the protesters, targeted Virginia, Michigan, and Minnesota, all states with Democratic governors.
LIBERATE MINNESOTA!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2020
The guidelines, which call for a 14-day “downward trajectory” in new coronavirus cases before states can reopen, ultimately leave the decision up to the states’ governors. Trump’s guidelines also call for a “robust” coronavirus testing program to be in place for health care workers.
None of the three states Trump targeted have said they are ready to reopen. In Michigan, there are indications the curve is beginning to flatten, but one doctor told the Associated Press that the data could represent a “plateau phase.” Minnesota’s governor has said a major increase in testing would be needed before taking steps to reopen. The Washington Post reported Thursday that the number of cases in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. has doubled in the last week, and the governor of Virginia has extended his state’s stay-at-home order until May 8.
Trump’s tweets came hours ahead of a planned protest by a conservative group calling itself “Liberate Minnesota” over the state’s stay-at-home order. Similar protests have emerged in Michigan, Ohio, Utah, Kentucky, and North Carolina.
In St. Paul, the group held a protest Friday in violation of stay-at-home orders in front of the home of Gov. Tim Walz. Hundreds showed up, according to news reports. The group’s Facebook page says that “now is the time to demand Governor Walz and our state legislators end this lock down!”
Walz was asked about the tweet at a news conference Friday. “I just don’t have time to figure out why something like that would happen,” he said, adding that he had tried calling both the president and the vice president and had yet to hear back.
“I just have to lead,” said Walz. “If they’re not going to do it, we’re going to do it, and I don’t mean that critically.”
As he spoke, protesters gathered outside his mansion.
Minnesota and Michigan are members of a pact of seven Midwest states that have banded together to coordinate their reopening. The pact came days after governors in the Northeast and the West Coast announced similar agreements.
Trump has vacillated on when and how to reopen the economy after states around the country issued stay-at-home orders. At the beginning of April, Trump said he wanted to see churches packed on Easter, before extending federal guidelines urging Americans to stay home. Then earlier this week, Trump insisted he had “total” authority to reopen states, before backing off that assertion after a backlash and declaring it should be up to the governors.
Trump on Friday morning also called on states to develop their own testing capacity, even as governors have called on the federal government to ramp up testing resources.
“The federal government cannot wipe its hands of this and say ‘Oh, the states are responsible for testing.’ We cannot do it. We cannot do it without federal help,” New York governor Andrew Cuomo said Friday.
Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.