President Donald Trump paid a controversial visit to Baltimore for a Memorial Day celebration on Monday, dismissing the mayor’s warnings to stay away from the city as it grapples with the pandemic.
The White House said that the ceremony at Fort McHenry — which defended Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812, inspiring the poem later adapted as “The Star Spangled Banner” — was intended to honor American service members who lost their lives in battle.
But Baltimore Mayor Jack Young said a non-essential trip by the president sends “the wrong message” to residents who are sheltering in their homes. The trip diverts police officers who could be enforcing social-distancing measures on a holiday weekend to provide security for the White House, he said.
Trump didn’t directly address Young’s comments in remarks at Fort McHenry, but expressed optimism about the fight against the pandemic, which has already claimed nearly 100,000 lives in the U.S.
“Together we will vanquish the virus and America will emerge from this crisis to new and even greater heights,” Trump said.
But Young has signaled his city needs resources, not rhetoric.
“We don’t need to be spending our resources for the president who’s coming here under our orders to stay at home,” Young, a Democrat, said at a press conference Friday. “I think he’s violating the law.”
In a separate interview with CNN, Young said the White House did not inform the mayor’s office before announcing the trip. He added that the president’s trip was certain to violate restrictions in Baltimore banning gatherings of more than 10 people.
“It sends a bad, bad message to the citizens of Baltimore because I’m asking them to stay home and only come out for essential reasons,” Young said.
Trump has openly urged cities and states to reopen despite the continued presence of coronavirus, which has already killed nearly 100,000 Americans. On both Saturday and Sunday, the president visited his golf club in Virginia. And earlier Monday, Trump attended a Memorial Day event at Arlington Cemetery.
“The brave men and women who have preserved our freedoms for generations did not stay home and the President will not either as he honors their sacrifice by visiting such a historic landmark in our Nation’s history,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.
Trump already has a tense relationship with Baltimore. In 2019, the president tweeted that the city was a “rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live,” while criticizing longtime congressman Elijah Cummings.
“We have a president coming to a city that he just degraded over a year ago, and I just want him to set the example for the rest of the country and not do this trip because it’s not essential,” Young told CNN.
More recently, Trump has criticized Maryland Governor Larry Hogan — a Republican who did not join the president at Fort McHenry — after the announcement the state had secured 500,000 coronavirus tests from South Korea. Trump told reporters that Hogan “didn’t really understand” the federal testing capacity and that he could have “saved a lot of money” by using U.S. federal labs instead.
Hogan, who leads the National Governors Association, has also pushed for direct funding to states grappling with lost revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic as part of the next phase of stimulus legislation being negotiated in Congress. Trump has said he sees the situation with state budgets as leverage he can use to extract political concessions from Democrats.
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