President Donald Trump will visit a medical swab manufacturer in Guilford on Friday despite pushback from Gov. Janet Mills, who told the president his trip could create unrest and later said he is failing to assert leadership as protests rage across the country.
The president will visit the headquarters of Puritan Medical Products, which used $75.5 million under the federal Defense Production Act to expand to a Pittsfield facility after Trump compelled it to produce more of the medical swabs needed to test for the coronavirus. It is one of the world’s two largest manufacturers of those swabs.
Trump’s visit to the Piscataquis County town of 1,500 will come at the convergence of a virus outbreak that has killed more than 100,000 and a crisis triggered by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pinned his neck for several minutes. The killing sparked protests across the country, some of which have turned violent.
The Republican president’s plans to visit Maine were confirmed by a White House official after the news broke out of a testy Monday morning call between Trump and governors over the state and federal response to the protests. Plans for the visit were first reported by CNN.
Trump derided many governors as “weak” on the call, audio of which was published by The Washington Post on Monday. He demanded tougher crackdowns on burning and stealing in some demonstrations after another night of violent protests in dozens of cities.
On the call, Mills, a Democrat, asked the administration to share purported intelligence that far-left agitators were fueling much of the violence. She then pushed back on Trump’s planned trip — which she said she learned of Sunday — by saying it could cause “security problems” in Maine.
Trump responded by saying the White House would “look into that,” then adding that he expected “a tremendous crowd” at the Maine event.
“She tried to talk me out of it. Now, I think she probably talked me into it,” Trump said of Mills and the Maine trip after an interjection from West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice. “She just doesn’t understand me very well.”
The Maine governor directly criticized the president at a news conference later on Monday, saying many calls with the Trump administration around the coronavirus response had been useful, but the one on Monday was different. She asked him to “abandon the divisive language that sows seeds of distrust among our people.”
“In a time of racial tensions, in a time of high unemployment and in an economy devastated by an unprecedented virus, what we need now is leadership,” she said.
It is unclear exactly what form the president’s visit will take. A White House official said Trump will tour the Guilford facility and deliver remarks, but the time has not been announced. Officials did not immediately respond to questions about whether remarks will happen inside or outside or whether members of the public will be allowed given social-distancing protocols.
Trump is expected to tout his administration’s work “in harnessing and bolstering American manufacturing capabilities to create American-made medical supplies and medicine” to respond to the virus, the White House official said. It will be his first Maine visit since the 2016 campaign.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who’s seeking reelection and has criticized Trump’s actions at times, won’t be accompanying him. In a statement, she said she visited Puritan last month and said plans to work Friday in Washington.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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