Moments later, from the same podium, his top aides warned that doing so could be risky and said the decision was really up to governors and religious leaders — because Trump was really just expressing his opinion.
Trump’s bombastic remarks and the confusing spectacle that followed look likely to further inflame the debate over church gatherings, which Trump said he’s now deeming “essential services” even though he doesn’t have the power to do that.
Some religious leaders have protested state orders to remain closed, and Trump’s Department of Justice has in several cases sought to back them up in court.
The mixed messages about church services on Friday reflect the broader confusion about reopening the country coming from Trump’s White House, which has left the big decisions up to governors while exhorting them with contradictory advice.
A report released this week by Trump’s own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlighted the danger church services can pose to their congregations by noting that among 92 people attending a rural church in Arkansas in March, 35 caught COVID-19 and 3 died.
Trump insisted Friday that churches be allowed to open this weekend, and warned governors he’d bend them to his will if they refused.
“I call upon governors to allow our churches and places of worship to open right now. If there’s any question, they’re going to have to call me. But they’re not going to be successful in that call,” Trump said. “If they don’t do it, I will override the governors.”