Sep 17, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden on presidential mask mandate: "Our legal team thinks I can do that"

Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden waves as he leaves the Hotel Dupont after having internal campaign meetings on September 16
Biden waves as he leaves a hotel in Wilmington, Delaware, on Wednesday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden told reporters in Delaware Wednesday he believes he would have the legal authority as president to issue a nationwide mandate to wear face masks to curb the spread of the coronavirus if needed.

Details: "Our legal team thinks I can do that, based upon the degree to which there's a crisis in those states, and how bad things are for the country," Biden said.

  • The former vice president later added he'd work with scientists to make the case to Republican and Democratic governors to determine whether such federal action were needed, ABC notes.
"The question is whether I have the legal authority as president to sign an executive order. We think we do."

Flashback: Biden said earlier this month he'd press local officials and governors to issue mandates on face coverings, adding there's a "question under the Constitution" on whether a president could take such action, per CBS News.

The other side: Biden's comments on the issue are in stark contrast to the stance of President Trump, who has rarely been seen wearing a mask. He told Axios in June that he believes masks are a "double-edged sword," and he appeared to mock Biden for wearing one in May.

  • On Wednesday, Trump said, "Masks have problems too. And I talked about the masks — have to be handled very gently, very carefully.
  • "I see that in restaurants there are people with masks and they are playing around with their masks and they have it — their fingers are in their mask and then they are serving with plates. I mean, I think there's a lot of problems with masks."

Of note: Trump said during Tuesday's ABC town hall that he found it "fascinating" that "Biden didn't put in a mask mandate."

  • Biden responded, "I'm not the president. He's the president. It's like, you know, Biden's problems — and these cities are in flames. I'm not the president, he's the president."

Go deeper: Biden: "I trust vaccines, I trust scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump"

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