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Trump taunts governors, encourages lockdown protesters

Video Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on April 18, 2020 - Duration: 03:36s

Trump taunts governors, encourages lockdown protesters

The U.S. coronavirus crisis took a sharp political turn on Friday as President Donald Trump lashed out at four Democratic governors over their handling of the pandemic after having conceded that states bear ultimate control of restrictions to contain the outbreak.

This report produced by Chris Dignam.

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Trump taunts governors, encourages lockdown protesters

On the day U.S. coronavirus deaths rose above 35,000, President Donald Trump let loose a cascade of incendiary messages on Twitter, taunting four Democratic governors and encouraging his supporters to flout stay-home orders designed to contain the deadly virus.

In a series of all-caps tweets on Friday, Trump said: "LIBERATE MINNESOTA!," "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!," "LIBERATE VIRGINIA," and said the 2nd Amendment was under siege.

Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said the president was encouraging citizens to engage in armed rebellion.

Meanwhile, protesters gathered outside the Minnesota governor's mansion on Friday to defy stay-at-home measures instituted by Governor Tim Walz.

The demonstration was organized by anti-lockdown group Liberate Minnesota.

The day before, demonstrators in Virginia - many with young children - gathered outside the state capitol building in Richmond to protest Governor Ralph Northam's stay-at-home order.

And, earlier in the week, thousands of Michigan residents blocked traffic and an entrance to a hospital in Lansing, the state capital.

At a news conference on Friday, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer responded to the president's tweet.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) MICHIGAN GOVERNOR GRETCHEN WHITMER, SAYING: "You know, I hope that it's not encouraging more protests.

I totally respect people's right to dissent and to voice their disagreement with decisions I've made.

I'll tell you this: every decision I've made has been centered around what's in the best interest of the public health of the people of Michigan.

None of them has been easy.

Every one of them has weighed heavily on me.

But I've done what I thought the right thing to do is.

I hope that if people are going to dissent that they do so in a manner that doesn't compromise their safety or the safety of others." After his "Liberate" tweets, Trump took aim at New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as he spoke at his daily news briefing.

Trump said on Twitter: "Governor Cuomo should spend more time “doing” and less time “complaining”.

Get out there and get the job done.

Stop talking!

We built you thousands of hospital beds that you didn’t need or use..." A reporter at the news conference informed Cuomo of Trump's comments.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) NEW YORK GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO, SAYING: "I wondered if you could respond to that..." The governor, whose state is the U.S. epicenter of the outbreak, did not mince words.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) NEW YORK GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO, SAYING: "First of all, if he's sitting at home watching TV, maybe he should get up and go to work, right?

[FLASH] If he didn't really believe 2,500 beds was necessary, I don't believe the federal government would've helped built 2,500 beds.

And the number came from a projection from him.

Him.

[FLASH] That's why we built 2,500 beds at Javits.

Because we listened to you, Mr. President.

And if we were foolish for listening to you, then shame on us.

But read your own report next time, before you criticize it." The extraordinary real-time exchange between Trump and Cuomo came after the president unveiled guidelines for a staggered, three-stage process for states to lift restrictions on businesses and revive the U.S. economy.

But many public health experts say that without wide-scale testing, which many governors say remains beyond reach due to failings of the Trump administration to ever launch such an effort, it is unlikely states will be able to safely reopen their businesses and end the lockdown.

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