Gov. J.B Pritzker on Tuesday said President Donald Trump is “fomenting some violence” and stirring up protests that will lead to more COVID-19 deaths by urging states to “liberate” themselves from stay-at-home orders meant to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Pritzker accused the president of resorting to a “political maneuver in the middle of a national emergency.”
“And he should stop it,” Pritzker said.
A day after Trump said he’d issue guidance to the nation’s governors, the president on Friday tweeted “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” Similar tweets about Michigan and Virginia followed. Protests to lift states’ stay-at-home orders have drawn large crowds in a number of states, including Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan and California.
Pritzker on Tuesday joined a chorus of Democratic and Republican governors in criticizing Trump’s message on a Washington Post Live event with national political reporter Robert Costa.
“He’s fomenting protest and, I hate to say, that is fomenting some violence, and I’m very concerned about what that might mean for the country if he keeps doing things like that,” Pritzker said. “We should be bringing people together, not dividing people.”
Unless Trump stops, the Democratic governor said “you could end up with violence.”
Pritzker said Trump’s “liberate” message is drawing out protesters who “are believing in his rhetoric.”
“I saw in Michigan and other places, large crowds, where they’re frankly going to be giving each other coronavirus, and people unfortunately will get sick, and some people may die as a result of the president’s rhetoric that has brought them out to protest,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker has been a critic of Trump and his administration’s response to coronavirus for weeks, on television and in his daily news briefings. The governor has complained about Illinois having to secure its own tests and personal protective equipment to get ahead of the spread of the virus.
And Trump has taken notice, addressing the Democratic governor in both tweets and in his own news conferences. Trump on Monday said Pritzker and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan “didn’t understand” their states’ testing capacity.
Pritzker pushed back on Tuesday, saying Trump is the one who is confused.
“I try to base all my opinions on fact. But the truth of the matter is the president doesn’t seem to understand testing capacity and getting results,” Pritzker said on Tuesday. “Testing capacity, what he’s referring to is, ‘Hey, you’ve got enough machines in each of your states to run tests that will give you hundreds of thousands of tests.’ Well he may be right. And he is right in Illinois. But what he’s not right about is we don’t have the supplies to run those tests.”
Pritzker said Illinois has the capacity to run tests but needs everything from swabs, to viral transport media [VTM] to RNA extractor reagents.
“If you don’t have all those — and by the way, there’s a worldwide shortage of all of those things — then you can’t run a test,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker once again urged the Republican president to use the Defense Production Act to obtain swabs, the VTM and the reagents “that we need.”
“None of that has been done at the federal government level,” the governor said.