President Trump criticized former Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s call for a nationwide mask mandate Thursday, saying states are seeing different rates of transmission and Americans should maintain a degree of individual freedom.
“He thinks it’s good politics, I guess,” Mr. Trump said.
He also questioned what power the president would have to issue such a mandate vis-a-vis governors.
“What other powers does he have?” Mr. Trump said, theorizing about a Biden presidency after they square off in the Nov. 3 election.
Mr. Trump said masks are a worthwhile tool in fighting the coronavirus and even patriotic, given what scientists say about their ability to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Maybe they work, and “maybe they’re not so good,” he said, reading from notes in the White House briefing room. “What do you have to lose?”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended face coverings since early April, and administration officials are pleading with Americans to wear them. But Mr. Trump has been lukewarm about them since the start of the pandemic.
He initially said a scarf might be better, since it’s thicker than a typical mask, before focusing on the optional nature of the CDC recommendations.
In recent weeks, he’s pushed for their use and donned one himself in some public appearances.