Trump's Criticism of Georgia Governor Gets Even Harsher

President says he's 'not happy' about Gov. Brian Kemp 'violating' federal guidelines
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 24, 2020 1:32 AM CDT
Trump Ramps Up Criticism on Eve of Georgia's Reopening
Gov. Brian Kemp, R-Ga., greets President Donald Trump as he steps off Air Force One during arrival, Friday, March 6, 2020, at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Ga.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Trump said Wednesday that he "strongly disagreed" with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's plan to start aggressively reopening his state amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On the eve of that reopening Friday, the president kicked things up a notch. Discussing a phone call he had with Kemp, Trump said at Thursday's press briefing, "I told him very distinctly, ‘You do what you think is best.' But if you ask me if I’m happy about it, I’m not happy about it, and I’m not happy about Brian Kemp." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes that Kemp was the only governor Trump criticized during the briefing, and that he repeatedly used the governor's full name. More, including Kemp's response:

  • Trump said he wants states to reopen too, but that Georgia is violating the federal guidelines for doing so, per the Hill. He specifically called out businesses like spas being allowed to reopen so early in the process: "I didn’t like to see spas opening, frankly, and I didn’t like to see a lot of things happening. I wasn’t happy with it. And I wasn’t happy with Brian Kemp. I wasn’t at all happy."

  • Kemp responded, though without directly addressing Trump's most recent comments, in a series of tweets. "For weeks now, my team has worked closely with the Trump Administration and our federal counterparts to mitigate the impact of #coronavirus in Georgia. Our decisions and direction are informed by data and public health recommendations," he wrote, explaining that "most businesses" in the state remained open, with restrictions, and only "specific" ones were closed as residents were asked to shelter in place. Those measures achieved the state's goals of slowing the spread of coronavirus and preparing for hospital surge capacity, he wrote, and "now, with favorable data and approval from state health officials, we are taking another measured step forward by opening shuttered businesses for limited operations."
  • Kemp also issued a new executive order late Thursday with 39 requirements restaurants must follow in order to reopen their dining rooms, plus other guidelines for businesses. It's not clear how many businesses will actually choose to open their doors, nor how many residents will actually choose to go out.
  • Many on Twitter were scratching their heads at Trump's apparent reversal from his eagerness to reopen the economy, and the Washington Post notes Kemp must be "shocked" at Trump's criticism. Sources tell the AP that both Trump and VP Mike Pence had repeatedly told Kemp in private conversations that they supported his plan, including as recently as one day before Wednesday's public bashing began.
  • Other Republican governors are also moving to quickly reopen, while Democratic governors have generally remained more cautious. More on that here.
(More coronavirus stories.)

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