Kellyanne Conway rewrites the history of Trump's call to 'liberate' states from lockdowns and claims certain governors 'blew past' his recommendations

Kevin Lamarque/ReutersPresident Donald Trump and adviser Kellyanne Conway.
  • White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on Wednesday blamed governors for rushing their economic reopenings in violation of federal guidelines amid the pandemic.
  • “Some of these states blew through our gating criteria, blew through our phases, and they opened up some of the industries a little too quickly, like bars,” Conway said.
  • “Remember the governors wanted complete latitude over when they would open their states,” she said. “They pushed back heavily, handsomely, Republicans and Democrats, when it was falsely rumoured that the president was going to be in charge of reopening the states.”
  • Far from a false rumour, the president insisted in April that he had “total” authority to order states to reopen.
  • Ultimately, Trump used his bully pulpit in the White House to urge states to quickly reopen and citizens to protest lockdowns he felt were too strict.
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White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on Wednesday blamed governors for rushing their economic reopenings in violation of federal guidelines amid the pandemic.

“Some of these states blew through our gating criteria, blew through our phases, and they opened up some of the industries a little too quickly, like bars,” Conway told reporters outside the White House.

She noted it was the governors – not the president – who controlled the reopening process after statewide shutdowns and thus are to blame for new, devastating outbreaks in many parts of the country.

“Remember the governors wanted complete latitude over when they would open their states,” she said. “They pushed back heavily, handsomely, Republicans and Democrats, when it was falsely rumoured that the president was going to be in charge of reopening the states.”

She added of the president, “He’s a federalist. He believes in states’ rights.”

Far from a false rumour, the president insisted in April that he had “total” authority to order states to reopen.

“The president of the United States calls the shots,” Trump said during an April 13 press briefing. “They can’t do anything without the approval of the president of the United States.”

The president falsely claimed there were “numerous provisions” in the Constitution that allowed him to overrule governors.

“When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total,” he said.

Constitutional law experts rejected Trump’s claims at the time, pointing out that the president has no authority to order states to loosen social distancing or reopen businesses and schools. Those decisions are entirely under the purview of state governments.

Ultimately, Trump used his bully pulpit in the White House to urge states to quickly reopen and citizens to protest lockdowns he felt were too strict.

Conway on Wednesday correctly pointed out that Trump publicly criticised Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a fellow Republican, when he became one of the first governors to reopen non-essential businesses amid the pandemic.

But she failed to mention that Trump railed against states that implemented more strict shutdowns as they struggled to contain their Covid-19 outbreaks.

Just days after he claimed to have “total” authority in state reopenings, Trump called to “liberate” Minnesota, Michigan, and Virginia, all of which have Democratic governors who imposed strict shutdowns. His calls came amid relatively small but well-publicised protests against the lockdowns in all three states.

Trump told reporters that he thought the protesters were listening to him.

“I think they’re listening,” he said on April 16. “I think they’d listened to me. They seem to be protesters that like me and respect this opinion, and my opinion is the same as just about all of the governors.”

He went on to say that “large parts of the country” were ready to begin reopening. Many of the states the president encouraged in reopening didn’t meet Trump administration guidelines that laid out certain thresholds states had to meet before reopening.

In early May, the White House threw out the first set of guidelines crafted by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to help schools, businesses, and churches reopen. The president felt the recommendations were too strict and forced the CDC to issue new, relaxed guidelines.

In one example, Arizona reopened with new cases on the rise, without testing enough of its residents, and with too high of a positive test rate – violating key federal guidance. Trump travelled to Phoenix in late June to hold a campaign rally that didn’t require social distancing or mask-wearing, even as the state’s outbreak worsened.

Now the virus is surging in parts of the Sunbelt and West. Arizona, Florida, and South Carolina have the most number of new coronavirus places anywhere in the world.

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