EXPOSED: Trump Administration Urged DeSantis to Reinstate Mask Mandates and Social Distancing

Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks

A recent revelation could provide even more ammo for Republican presidential candidates seeking to win the party’s nomination. Former President Donald Trump remains the frontrunner in the race, but so far, none of his opponents have fully exploited his biggest weakness: his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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However, a letter from Trump’s White House to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was recently unearthed that could give his critics on the right an effective cudgel to use against him. In the letter, the Trump administration urged DeSantis to reimpose mask mandates and social distancing practices in the Sunshine State after the governor had already lifted these restrictions:

Former President Donald Trump's administration told Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) to reinstitute masking and social distancing in Florida in 2021, months after the governor had reopened the state.

In a letter obtained by the Washington Examiner, Trump's White House Coronavirus Task Force warned DeSantis's administration that "aggressive mitigation must be used," including "uniform implementation" of 2-3-ply well-fitting masks and "strict physical distancing."

A new rise in COVID-19 cases has prompted calls to reinstate masking and other mitigation measures, which in turn has renewed the debate over which Republican handled the initial virus response better.

DeSantis had lifted all COVID-19 restrictions on businesses and restaurants in Florida and banned fines for not wearing a mask in September 2020, months prior to the letter.

In the letter, the White House under Trump told DeSantis to push hard for vaccinations and social distancing:

But in the letter sent to Florida from Trump's task force, DeSantis was told, "Do not delay the rapid immunization of those over 65 and vulnerable to severe disease."

It further advised "active and aggressive immunization."

The letter also instructed the state on "maintaining public confidence and maximizing vaccine acceptance" to address "persistent vaccine-hesitancy."

However, the Trump administration's report to DeSantis advised in January 2021, "Florida must increase both statewide and local public mitigation. Increase communication around the importance of personal mitigation with masking, physical distancing, and avoiding family gatherings."

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The letter also warned that “aggressive mitigation must be used to match a more aggressive virus” and that “without uniform implementation of effective face masking (two or three ply and well-fitting) and strict physical distancing, epidemics could quickly worse as more transmissible viruses emerge.”

In January, Trump unleashed on DeSantis, who is widely seen as the biggest threat to the former president’s chances of winning the GOP nomination, for having locked Florida down in the first place.

"Florida was actually closed for a great, long period of time. You remember, [DeSantis] closed the beaches and everything else. You know, they’re trying to rewrite history."

Yet, DeSantis was not the only governor whom Trump tried to pressure when it came to maintaining lockdown orders. The former president also gave Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp the same treatment when he decided to reopen his state. “I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities,” he said during a press conference as the pandemic was still in full swing. Trump said Kemp was “in violation” of the White House’s guidelines related to COVID lockdowns and other measures.

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The content of the letter could be quite damning as primary season marches on. Thus far, the candidates, with the exception of Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson, have been hesitant to attack Trump too strongly. But as time goes on and the field narrows, Trump’s prior positions on the pandemic could come back to haunt him.

White House Coronavirus Tas... by Julia Johnson

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