The Trump White House issued a warning to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2021 urging him to enact mask mandates in the Sunshine State, a letter shows.
The directive, dated January 10, 2021, states that “aggressive mitigation should be used” to combat the virus.
It advised “uniform implementation of effective face masks” and “strict physical distancing.”
DeSantis, 44, released the letter Thursday, accusing former President Donald Trump, 77, of being a “power-hungry” bureaucrat.
“Even in January 2021, the Trump-Fauci White House Coronavirus Task Force attacked Florida for being open and demanded that Florida impose a mask mandate and enact other lockdown policies,” he said during a press conference. “Mandate Freedom” in Florida.
“We rejected those demands, stood up to power-hungry health bureaucrats, and kept our state free.”
Donald Trump has countered Ron DeSantis’s criticism of the pandemic, noting that Florida briefly engaged in virus suppression policies.Getty Images
DeSantis had reopened Florida months earlier, after briefly imposing some suppression measures to slow the spread, and was steadfast in resisting pressure to review mandates or closures.
The Florida governor had also defended a ban on imposing local fines on people who choose not to wear a mask.
Here’s the letter the Trump White House coronavirus task force sent to Florida on January 10, 2021. Just days before Trump left office, his task force was STILL urging @RonDeSantis Shut down Florida with “strict physical distancing” and force everyone to wear masks. pic.twitter.com/AtbDrQN2Ml
– DeSantis War Room 🐊 (@DeSantisWarRoom) September 7, 2023
Ron DeSantis has been sparing in his criticism of Donald Trump, but he is not afraid to attack him over the pandemic.Getty Images
The release of the 2021 letter comes amid a war of words with his top 2024 Republican rival over COVID-19 and fears of a surge in cases.
Trump attacked DeSantis on COVID-19 during an interview Wednesday with conservative host Hugh Hewitt when asked about criticism for not firing former COVID czar Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“[DeSantis] He has selective memory. It was closed,” Trump said.
“Henry McMaster did not shut down South Carolina. “Kristi Noem did not shut down South Dakota,” he continued.
“Florida closed. It was tight like a drum. He had vax lines. He was excited about everything. He now talks about this and that about vaccines.”
Florida’s governor has been clear that mask mandates are not coming to Florida. fake images
The former commander in chief also defended his decision not to fire Fauci, which has been a frequent criticism from DeSantis.
“First of all, you are not allowed. “He is a public official and you are not allowed to fire him,” Trump insisted.
“But forget it, because I don’t necessarily go by everything. Dr. Fauci told me things and I didn’t do them, in many cases.”
At one point in 2021, Florida prohibited businesses from imposing mask mandates on their customers. AFP via Getty Images
DeSantis, however, was not convinced by that defense.
“It’s important to note for a long time that that was not his excuse,” the presidential candidate argued Wednesday in the Rubin Report.
“His excuse had been that if you fired Fauci, both the Democrats and the media would have been upset, which of course is 100% true.
“Clearly, he could have been fired from the White House Task Force. “There was no obligation to drag him out of one press conference after another, to have him do media interviews.”
Florida’s governor has hinted at plans to clean house in the federal government.Getty Images
DeSantis’ crusade against COVID-19 mandates after the first few months of the pandemic helped catapult him to Republican stardom.
It also earned him much fanfare at home.
In 2018, DeSantis narrowly edged his Democratic foe Andrew Gillum by 49.6% to 49.2%. But in 2022, he handily won re-election against his Democratic rival, Governor Charlie Crist, 59.4% to 40%.
Florida had long been considered a purple state, but turned red under DeSantis’ leadership.
With hospitalizations rising almost steadily since July, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, DeSantis is trying to tap into that political gold mine again.
Donald Trump is the Republican Party’s clear favorite for 2024 in countless polls. AFP via Getty Images
He vowed Thursday that Florida will remain a “free state” and a “bulwark” against strict virus suppression measures. On Wednesday he promised to make a reckoning over COVID-19.
“I will hold a reckoning for those who engineered the failed and destructive biomedical policies that caused harm across our country, because until there is accountability they will try to do it again,” the Florida governor promised Wednesday.
The Post has contacted a Trump campaign spokesperson for comment.
DeSantis currently sits second in the 2024 Republican race, trailing Trump by 38.7 percentage points in the latest RealClearPolitics aggregate.
Late last month, he briefly suspended his campaign activities to respond to Hurricane Idalia.