Trump: ‘I wasn’t happy with Brian Kemp’ over Georgia reopening
President Trump escalated his criticism of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on Thursday, saying he was “not happy” with the governor’s decision to start reopening businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I wasn’t happy with Brian Kemp,” Trump said at a White House news briefing on Thursday. “I wasn’t at all happy.”
Kemp has stirred controversy by moving to reopen businesses where people come into close contact, like nail salons and barbershops, starting on Friday.
While Trump has at times sent mixed signals on reopening the economy, for example last week calling to “liberate” certain states, in this instance he is coming down on the side of his health experts, who are warning against reopening too soon and allowing the virus to rebound.
Trump said he told Kemp that Georgia would be violating the White House’s reopening guidelines.
“I said, ‘You make your own decision,’ I told him that,” Trump said. “I said, ‘You’re not on the guidelines, but I’m letting you make your own decision, but I want people to be safe and I want the people in Georgia to be safe, and I don’t want this thing to flare up because you’re deciding to do something that is not in the guidelines.’”
Trump said he consulted with his health experts, including Deborah Birx – who is coordinating the White House’s coronavirus response – and Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, and they “weren’t thrilled about” Kemp’s decision to reopen the state.
The ultimate decisions on closing or reopening businesses are up to governors. Still, a public clash with Trump undercuts Kemp and puts pressure on him to reconsider.
On Wednesday, when Trump first said he disagreed with Kemp but in milder terms, Kemp showed no signs of backing down.
“Our next measured step is driven by data and guided by state public health officials,” Kemp tweeted Wednesday in responding to Trump’s comments that day. “We will continue with this approach to protect the lives — and livelihoods — of all Georgians.