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Trump pressures Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor to reopen despite White House guidelines

Oleksii Liskonih/iStockBy BEN GITTELSON, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump this week continued to pressure Democratic governors to roll back coronavirus-related restrictions — targeting Pennsylvania’s leader before a trip to the state Thursday — even as they practice caution in line with guidelines issued by his own White House.

“The great people of Pennsylvania want their freedom now, and they are fully aware of what that entails,” Trump tweeted Monday. “The Democrats are moving slowly, all over the USA, for political purposes.”

Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, said soon after that businesses that resume services before the state allows could be hit with penalties.

“We are fighting a war that has taken the lives of too many people. And we’re winning,” Wolf tweeted. The politicians who are encouraging us to quit the fight are acting in a most cowardly way.”

Trump’s planned visit to a medical distribution facility in the Allentown, Pennsylvania, area will mark his second major trip outside Washington in over two months. Last week, he flew to a factory churning out masks in Arizona, which like Pennsylvania, is a political battleground state that could prove key to the president’s re-election.

The attack on Wolf fit a pattern in which Trump has pushed for economic activity to restart even as his own coronavirus task force warns doing so too rapidly could accelerate the spread of the virus.

The president has made the state of the U.S. economy a centerpiece of his reelection platform, and he has increasingly looked to blame the virus’s devastating fiscal toll on governors who have called the shots with stay-at-home orders and other restrictions.

Wolf finds himself among a growing list of Democratic governors Trump has lambasted for not removing restrictions more quickly.

The president has frequently criticized the Democratic governors of Illinois and Michigan, and last month tweeted calls to “LIBERATE” Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia as demonstrators there protested against restrictions.

Those states have all taken some steps to loosen restrictions, although not as quickly as some of their Republican counterparts, like in Georgia and Florida. In Pennsylvania, for example, Wolf has endorsed a color-coded, phased system for reopening that has already allowed some in-person retails stores and small gatherings to take place in parts of the state.

An ABC News analysis of data compiled by the New York Times found that no state has fully met the recommendations laid out by the White House last month for reopening, including a two-week decline in new reported cases.

While they do not meet the White House criteria for starting to reopen, most of the Democratic-run states Trump has targeted are all battlegrounds in the 2020 election.

Meanwhile, the government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned senators in a hearing Tuesday that the “consequences could be really serious” if states and localities reopen too soon.

Later Tuesday, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner praised Fauci’s knowledge of infectious diseases but said difficult decisions about reopening were up to elected officials — like governors.

“You have a lot of policymakers like the president or the governors who were elected by the people in their states and in their country to take the input of the experts and professionals, and then make decisions weighing a lot of different factors,” Kushner said in an interview with TIME.

“There’s risks to anything, but the president carries the burden of the 30 million Americans who have lost their jobs,” he said, adding that “a lot of people have learned how to live with the virus now” and “perform best practices.”

On Thursday, Trump plans to visit a facility run by the medical distributor Owens & Minor, according to the White House.

“Anybody’s welcome to visit the state,” Wolf told reporters Tuesday, according to PennLive. “I would urge anybody coming to Pennsylvania to respect our efforts to stay safe, to keep people safe and businesses, wherever he visits. I hope he does everything in his power to keep employees safe.”

Democratic Rep. Brendan Boyle, who represents parts of Philadelphia, called Trump’s visit “a thinly-veiled campaign stop.”

“Cancel the visit tomorrow,” Boyle said in an interview with CNN Wednesday. “Don’t put other people at risk given how many people are involved in any presidential visit, and instead, stay at home, do your job, get us closer to solving this unbelievable crisis.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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