Mask-less Trump tours re­pur­posed Michi­gan Ford plant

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE - BY DARLENE SUPERVILLE AND JONATHAN LEMIRE As­so­ci­ated Press

Pan­demic pol­i­tics shad­owed Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s trip to Michi­gan on Thurs­day as he high­lighted life­sav­ing med­i­cal de­vices, with the pres­i­dent and of­fi­cials from the elec­toral bat­tle­ground state clash­ing over fed­eral aid, mail-in bal­lots and face masks.

Trump vis­ited Yp­si­lanti, out­side Detroit, to tour a Ford Mo­tor Co. fac­tory that had been re­pur­posed to man­u­fac­ture ven­ti­la­tors, the med­i­cal breath­ing ma­chines gov­er­nors begged for dur­ing the height of the COVID-19 pan­demic.

But his visit came amid a long-run­ning feud with the state’s Demo­cratic gover­nor and a day after the pres­i­dent threat­ened to with­hold fed­eral funds over the state’s ex­panded voteby-mail ef­fort. And, again, the pres­i­dent did not pub­licly wear a face cov­er­ing de­spite a warn­ing from the state’s top law en­force­ment of­fi­cer that a re­fusal to do so might lead to a ban on his re­turn.

All of the Ford ex­ec­u­tives giv­ing Trump the tour were wear­ings masks, the pres­i­dent stand­ing alone with­out one. At one point, he did take a White House­branded mask from his pocket and told re­porters he had worn it else­where on the tour, out of pub­lic view.

For a mo­ment, he also teas­ingly held up a clear shield in front of his face. A state­ment from Ford said that Bill Ford, the com­pany’s ex­ec­u­tive chair­man, “en­cour­aged Pres­i­dent Trump to wear a mask when he ar­rived” and said the pres­i­dent wore it dur­ing “a pri­vate view­ing of three Ford GTs from over the years” be­fore re­mov­ing it.

Michi­gan At­tor­ney Gen­eral Dana Nes­sel said that mask wear­ing isn’t just Ford’s pol­icy but it’s also the law in a state that’s among those hard­est hit by the virus. Nes­sel said that if Trump re­fused to wear a mask Thurs­day “he’s go­ing to be asked not to re­turn to any en­closed fa­cil­i­ties in­side our state“and “we’re go­ing to have to take ac­tion” against any com­pany that al­lows it in the fu­ture.

The Repub­li­can pres­i­dent and Gov. Gretchen Whit­mer have clashed dur­ing the coron­avirus out­break over her crit­i­cism of the fed­eral re­sponse to the state’s needs for med­i­cal equip­ment, like ven­ti­la­tors, and per­sonal pro­tec­tive gear, such as gloves, masks and gowns. Trump on Thurs­day crit­i­cized Demo­cratic gov­er­nors, sug­gest­ing they were pro­ceed­ing too slowly in re­open­ing their states’ economies.

“You have a lot of, un­for­tu­nately, in this case Demo­crat gov­er­nors [who] think it’s good pol­i­tics to keep it closed,” Trump said. “I think they’re be­ing forced to open, frankly, the peo­ple want to get out. You’ll break the coun­try if you don’t.”

The day be­fore, Trump threat­ened to with­hold fed­eral funds from Michi­gan after its sec­re­tary of state mailed ab­sen­tee bal­lot ap­pli­ca­tions to mil­lions of vot­ers. Trump first tweeted – falsely – that the Demo­cratic state of­fi­cial had mailed ab­sen­tee bal­lots to Michi­gan vot­ers. He later sent a cor­rected tweet spec­i­fy­ing that ap­pli­ca­tions to re­quest ab­sen­tee bal­lots had been mailed and seemed to back off his fund­ing threat.

Trump nar­rowly won Michi­gan in 2016. He in­sists mail-in vot­ing is ripe for fraud, although there is scant ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing.

“We don’t want them to do mail in bal­lots be­cause it’s go­ing to lead to to­tal elec­tion fraud,” Trump said Thurs­day.

Ear­lier, Trump, at a round­table with AfricanAme­r­i­can sup­port­ers in front of a sign with his slo­gan for re­open­ing the econ­omy, “Tran­si­tion to Great­ness,” noted low mi­nor­ity un­em­ploy­ment num­bers be­fore the pan­demic and also pointed to his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s work on crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form.

Whit­mer did not ac­com­pany Trump dur­ing the visit.

“We do not have plans to meet, but I did speak with him yes­ter­day on the phone,” Whit­mer told “CBS This Morn­ing” on Thurs­day. “I made the case that, you know, we all have to be on the same page here. We’ve got to stop de­mo­niz­ing one an­other and, re­ally, fo­cus on the fact that the com­mon en­emy is the virus.”

DOUG MILLS The New York Times

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tours Ford’s Raw­sonville Com­po­nents Plant in Yp­si­lanti, Michi­gan, on Thurs­day, which has switched to make per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment to help health­care work­ers in the fight against the spread of coron­avirus.

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