Pence Invokes Constitution in Defending Trump Rallies

Everybody else on task force wears a mask
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 26, 2020 4:36 PM CDT
Attending Rallies Is a Right, Pence Says in Virus Briefing
Vice President Mike Pence walks offstage after a briefing with Dr. Deborah Birx, far left, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Asked repeatedly Friday why it's OK for President Trump to hold indoor rallies with large crowds during the pandemic, Politico reports, Vice President Mike Pence cited the Constitution. Americans' rights of free speech and assembly exist even during the coronavirus crisis, Pence said, as does the principle of individual liberty. Also, he said, "We have an election coming up this fall." Pence made the comments during the first press briefing held by the White House coronavirus task force in nearly two months, per CNN, held this time at the Department of Health and Human Services instead of the briefing room at the White House. The vice president said rally attendees are screened and Americans are given "the very best counsel that we have" about the health threat. Pence said he and Trump, who did not attend the briefing, "still want to give people the freedom to participate in the political process."

Pence's counsel on Friday included: Wash your hands, don't touch your face, and disinfect often. He did not say anything about wearing a mask or maintaining social distancing, per USA Today, and he did not wear a mask during the briefing. Dr. Anthony Fauci and the other health officials attending did wear masks, except when at the mircrophone to speak. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, made the point when it was his turn. "Stay six feet apart from each other as much as possible," Redfield urged, and "wear face coverings when we’re in public"—among the steps "to do our part to protect the vulnerable." Pence attributed part of the jump in coronavirus cases to an increase in testing. He said there's still "work to do" to stop the spread, and announced that he'll visit Texas, Florida and Arizona next week. Cases are up in all three states. (The coronavirus task force has scaled back.)

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