Updated Apr 19, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Governors respond to Trump's calls to "liberate" states from virus restrictions

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) expressed confusion on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday about President Trump's calls on Twitter to "LIBERATE" several states from coronavirus lockdowns last week, claiming he's contradicting the federal government's own plan for governors.

Why it matters: Hundreds of Americans violated social distancing orders over the weekend to hold protests opposing state closures of businesses and schools. Trump encouraged them to do so in Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia — three states with Democratic governors.

What he's saying: "I don't think it's helpful to encourage demonstrations and encourage people to go against the president's own policy," Hogan said.

  • "The president's policy says you can't start to reopen under his plan until you have declining numbers for 14 days, which those states and my state do not have. So then to encourage people to go protest the plan that you just made recommendations on Thursday — it just doesn't make any sense."
  • Hogan added that he understands the frustration of living under a lockdown, and he said that state governments are "doing everything we possibly can to reopen in a safe manner."

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), one of the governors who Trump has targeted, said on CNN that "this is not the time for protests, this is not the time for divisiveness. This is time for leadership that will stand up and provide empathy. It's the time for truth."

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) didn't respond directly to Trump, but said on CNN regarding the protests: "The hard part of public health is when you're doing a good job, you're saving lives, and it's hard to quantify precisely what that looks like."

  • "But we know that this curve was steep at the trajectory we were headed and now it looks as though it's starting to flatten," she continued. "These efforts are making a difference in saving lives. We've got to continue doing that."

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) called the tweets "dangerous" and claimed that they encouraged "illegal activity."

  • "To have an American president encourage people to violate the law — I can't remember any time during my time in America where we have seen such a thing. It is dangerous because it can inspire people to ignore things that actually can save their lives. And I don't know that there's another way to characterize it."

The other side: Vice President Mike Pence claimed on "Fox News Sunday" that Trump's tweets, which many have argued are inciting unrest in these states, are meant to “encourage governors to find ways to safely and responsibly let America go back to work.”

Go deeper ... In photos: Americans gather to protest social distancing

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Photo: Brendan Smialowski /AFP via Getty Images

A day after threatening to federalize forces to snuff out riots across the country, the president appears to be backing off the idea of invoking the Insurrection Act, sources familiar with his plans tell Axios.

What we're hearing: Aides say he hasn’t ruled out its use at some point, but that he's “pleased” with the way protests were handled last night (apart from in New York City, as he indicated on Twitter today) — and that for now he's satisfied with leaving the crackdown to states through local law enforcement and the National Guard.