- Mark Meadows, President Trump’s chief of staff, reportedly convinced Trump not to introduce a nationwide mask mandate, The New York Times reported Thursday.
- According to the Times, Meadows said such a mandate would alienate Trump’s strongest supporters: “The base will revolt,” he said.
- Meadows’ comments convinced Trump to forgo a mask mandate despite polling data showing a majority of Republicans were in favor of one.
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Mark Meadows, President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, was ultimately the one who convinced the president to forgo a nationwide mask mandate to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, The New York Times reported on Thursday.
According to the report, President Trump’s main pollster, Tony Fabrizio, came to the Oval Office in the middle of the summer for a meeting with Trump and his advisors. Fabrizio reported some surprising news: A majority of voters – including likely Trump supporters – supported mandatory mask-wearing in public.
Fabrizio’s poll had found that, in July, nearly 70% of voters in states being targeted by Trump’s campaign were in favor of a mask mandate, including more than half of Republicans. The polling data supported an argument made by senior advisors Jared Kushner and Hope Hicks: Trump could portray mask-wearing as Americans’ key to regaining their freedom to attend group gatherings and indoor events.
But Meadows disagreed. During the same meeting, he argued the politics of such a move would damage the President’s reputation with his most ardent supporters.
“The base will revolt,” Meadows said, according to The Times.
Several of Trump’s other advisors shared this viewpoint, including White House senior advisor Stephen Miller. Meadows added that he wasn’t sure such a move would be legal, either.
For Trump, Meadows’ words ended up outweighing the wishes of Kushner and Hicks, and of Fabrizio’s polling data.
“I’m not doing a mask mandate,” he reportedly said.
After that, Trump was rarely seen in public wearing a mask, except for after he contracted COVID-19 himself in early October.
Trump lashed out at Jared Kushner for overseeing what he saw as too much testing
In addition to Meadows’ involvement in discouraging a mask mandate, the New York Times report also detailed how Trump lashed out at Kushner for what he saw as too much testing for COVID-19.
Kushner helped oversee nationwide testing efforts throughout the year.
According to The Times, during another Oval Office meeting of top aides on August 19, Trump grew angry with increases in COVID-19 testing in the US, which he blamed for higher case numbers.
“You’re killing me! This whole thing is! We’ve got all the damn cases,” Trump reportedly yelled at Kushner.
“I want to do what Mexico does,” Trump continued. “They don’t give you a test till you get to the emergency room and you’re vomiting.”
Trump also criticized Kushner about testing during debate preparation, according to the report.
“I’m going to lose,” Trump said, according to The Times. “And it’s going to be your fault, because of the testing.”
Azmi Haroun contributed reporting.