Ahead of his much-publicized presidential visit to a repurposed Michigan Ford Motor plant on Thursday, the state’s Democratic attorney general posted an open letter to President Trump insisting that he wear a facemask and reminding him that it is “currently the law of this State” to do so. When President Trump defied her instructions, Attorney General Dana Nessel appeared on CNN to declare that she is “ashamed” that he is the President of the United States and accuse Trump of not caring about Michiganders’ “safety.” Nessel also suggested that Ford might be punished for allowing the president to take off his mask.
The dustup between Nessel and Trump began with the Democratic AG announcing to the nation Wednesday that she had written an open letter to the president informing him that while she was choosing to “not prevent [him] from touring Ford’s plant,” he must “respect the great efforts of the men and women at Ford – and across this State – by wearing a facial covering.”
“It is not just the policy of Ford, by virtue of the Governor’s Executive Orders,” Nessel underscored. “It is currently the law of this State.”
In an appearance on Trump’s least favorite cable news network ahead of his visit Thursday, Nessel escalated her warning, telling Alisyn Camerota that if the president fails to follow her instructions, he’ll be asked “not to return” to any such facilities in Michigan. “Honestly, if he fails to wear a mask, he’s going to be asked not to return to any enclosed facility inside our state,” said the Democrat.
But while Trump chose to wear a mask — a navy blue one with a presidential seal — while tour the Ford plant in Ypsilanti, he took it off when he got in front of the cameras, announcing that he did not want to “give the press the pleasure of seeing it.”
Asked by a reporter why he wasn’t wearing a mask, Trump said, “Not necessary. Everybody’s been tested and I’ve been tested.” While he said he “had one on before,” he took it off. “I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it,” he explained.
“I was given a choice, and I had one on in an area where [Ford executives] preferred it,” said Trump.
His decision to remove the mask in defiance of her orders incensed Nessel, who was given a chance afterward to express her opinion on the matter once again on CNN.
“I am ashamed to have him be President of the United States of America,” Nessel told Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room” Thursday.
His decision to defy Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s orders, Nessel hoped, will end up coming back to haunt him in November.
“I hope that the voters of Michigan will remember this when November comes, that he didn’t care enough about their safety, he didn’t care about their welfare, he didn’t respect them enough just to engage in the very simple task, the painless task, the easy task of wearing a mask when he was provided one,” she said. “And so I hope that we’ll have a new president soon enough who does respect people more than this president does.”
Meanwhile, Nessel strongly hinted that Ford might now be in trouble with the state.
“I think that we’re going to have to have a very serious conversation with Ford in the event that they permitted the President to be in publicly enclosed places in violation of the order,” Nessel said. “They knew exactly what the order was and if they permitted anyone, even the President of the United States, to defy that order, I think it has serious health consequences potentially to their workers.”
Ahead of the visit, Nessel had threatened legal action against companies that don’t force people to comply with the mask order. “I know that Ford has asked him to do the same thing, but if we know that he’s coming to our state, and we know he’s not going to follow the law, I think we’re going to have to take action against any company or any facility that allows him inside those facilities and puts our workers at risk,” she said.
Full text of Nessel’s open letter below:
Open Letter to President Donald J. Trump
Regarding his May 21st, 2020 Ford Motor Company Tour
Dear President Trump,=
Michigan’s Big 3 Automakers are sterling examples of ingenuity and innovation. I wholeheartedly agree with Governor Whitmer that the Big 3 and our autoworkers should be showcased for their efforts in responding to COVID-19 and their commitment to rebuilding our nation’s economy. I hope that Ford and the UAW’s cooperative efforts in protecting worker safety will serve as an example to other companies across this nation.
Our UAW workers are among the most skilled and industrious in the world. That’s why protecting our businesses – and our workers – is of critical importance for our State. In light of the current global health crisis, Governor Whitmer has issued Executive Orders designed to safeguard the sustained viability of our businesses and protect the health and safety of our workers.
Executive Order 2020-91 requires that manufacturing facilities “suspend all non- essential in-person visits, including tours.” (Section 4) It also requires facilities to conduct a daily screening protocol for employees and “any other individuals entering the facility” (Section 4), and that everyone on the worksite be “kept at least six feet from one another to the maximum extent possible.” (Section 1) Moreover, Executive Order 2020-92 requires that any individual able to medically tolerate a facial covering wear one when in any enclosed public space. (Section 15) We know that Ford Motor Company takes the legal requirements of the Governor’s Executive Orders very seriously. In fact, a spokesperson for Ford has confirmed that the company shared its safety protocols with the White House in advance of your trip.
While my Department will not act to prevent you from touring Ford’s plant, I ask that while you are on tour you respect the great efforts of the men and women at Ford – and across this State – by wearing a facial covering. It is not just the policy of Ford, by virtue of the Governor’s Executive Orders. It is currently the law of this State. Michigan has been hit especially hard by the virus, with more than 50,000 confirmed cases and 5,000 deaths. Therefore, we must all do our part to stop the spread of COVID- 19. Anyone who has potentially been recently exposed, including the President of the United States, has not only a legal responsibility, but also a social and moral responsibility, to take reasonable precautions to prevent further spread of the virus.
Thank you for your efforts to keep Michiganders safe. Sincerely,
Dana Nessel Attorney General
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