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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"

Go deeper

Dec 2, 2020 - World

Biden says he won't immediately remove U.S. tariffs on China

President-elect Joe Biden during an event in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's 25% tariffs imposed on China under the phase one trade deal will remain in place at the start of the new administration, President-elect Biden said in an interview with the New York Times published early Wednesday.

Details: "I'm not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to the tariffs," Biden said. He plans to conduct a full review of the current U.S. policy on China and speak with key allies in Asia and Europe to "develop a coherent strategy," he said.

Legacy civil rights groups: Biden's transition needs to include us

President-elect Joe Biden at the NAACP 110th National Convention last year. Photo: Bill Pugliano via Getty

Prominent civil rights leaders are concerned that President-elect Joe Biden is deciding his administration without their input, NBC News reported Tuesday.

Why it matters: As Biden looks to deliver his promise of forming a diverse administration, he will have to contend with different factions of the liberal movement that might pull him in different directions.

Biden's economic team will write a new crisis playbook

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Joe Biden's economic team faces a daunting task helping the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs or otherwise been financially ravaged by the coronavirus. But most of them have first-hand crisis experience, dating back to when Barack Obama inherited a crumbling economy when he took office in 2009.

Why it matters: Most of President-elect Biden's economic nominees served in the Obama administration, and wish that they could have gone bigger to help America recover from the 2008 financial crisis. But it's not going to be easy for them to push through massive fiscal spending in 2021.