Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday defended President Trump’s calls to “liberate” states under stay-at-home orders amid protests against the measures, saying the president wanted to encourage governors to “safely reopen” their economies.
“The American people know that no one in America wants to reopen this country more than President Donald Trump,” Pence said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“I can assure you he’s going to continue to encourage governors to find ways to safely and responsibly let Americans go back to work.”
The vice president said Trump’s wishes are in line with those of most Americans, who are impatient for the economy to restart so people can get back to work.
“What you see, I think, among millions of Americans who have been embracing those social distancing measures and making the sacrifices is they want their governors to find a way to responsibly and safely reopen their state economies,” he continued.
The president in a series of tweets Friday wrote: “LIBERATE MINNESOTA,” “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” and then, “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”
Trump continued to speak out in support of the protests again at a White House briefing Saturday, claiming some states were being “unreasonable” with the lockdown guidelines and that “some of the governors have gotten carried away.”
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Sunday urged the president not to “focus on protests” as the country is battling the pandemic that has infected more than 735,000 Americans and killed more than 39,000.
“Our president has been unable to deliver on tests, now he has chosen to focus on protests, and this is not the time for protests,” Northam, a Democrat, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“This is not the time for divisiveness. This is time for leadership that will stand up and provide empathy, that will understand what’s going on in this country of ours with this pandemic, it’s the time of truth, and it’s time to bring people together.”
Meanwhile, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said that she had to take “aggressive” measures because her state had the third-highest rate of coronavirus deaths in the nation.
“It is disproportionately hurting our state and that is why we need to take a uniquely aggressive action to protect people,” the Democrat said on CNN, adding that they’re working.
“We are seeing the curve start to flatten. And that means we’re saving lives,” she said.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said encouraging protests against stay-at-home orders contradicts the administration’s guidelines for states to begin opening businesses when they see a 14-day decline in cases.
“I don’t think it’s helpful to encourage demonstrations, and encourage people to go against the president’s own policy,” Hogan said on CNN.
He said his state — like some others targeted by Trump — has not seen a decline in coronavirus infections.
“So then to encourage people to go protest the plans that you just made recommendations on, on Thursday it just doesn’t make any sense. We’re sending completely conflicting messages out to the governors and to the people as if we should ignore federal policy and federal recommendations,” Hogan said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it was “unfortunate” protesters were rallying against the guidelines intended to keep people safe.
“Testing. Tracing. Treatment. Shelter in place. And I do think that it’s unfortunate,” Pelosi said on “Fox News Sunday.” “But, you know, people will do what they do. But the fact is, we’re all impatient. We all want out. But what they’re doing is really unfortunate.”
Pence, during his appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” was also questioned by host Chris Wallace about health experts’ claims that the capacity of daily testing has to increase to 500,000 before restrictions can be lifted.
“We believe the testing we have today across the country, once we activate all the labs that can do coronavirus testing, is sufficient for any state in America to move into phase one” of the White House’s reopening guidelines, the vice president said.
“We’re going to continue to fully partner with governors around the country and health officials in increasing and scaling the amount of testing, and we have every confidence that we can have a sufficient amount of testing to be able to reopen America,” he added.