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Trump discusses confederate flag, rejects national mask mandate

Washington DC: U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday (July 17) he does not believe in implementing a mandate requiring Americans to wear masks - on the heels of a week during which state and local officials imposed conflicting orders and coronavirus cases rose by more than 70,000 across the nation for the second day in a row.

"I want people to have a certain freedom, and I don't believe in that, no, and I don't agree with the statement that if everybody wear a mask everything disappears. Hey, Dr. Fauci said don't wear a mask. Our Surgeon General - terrific guy - said don't wear a mask. Everybody who is saying - don't wear a mask - all of sudden everybody's got to wear a mask, and as you know masks cause problems too. With that being said, I'm a believer in masks. I think masks are good. But I leave it up to the governors. Many of the governors are changing. They're more mask into - they like the concept of masks." Trump said during an interview with on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.

The United States recorded a total of at least 70,674 new COVID-19 infections on Friday after climbing by a record 77,499 a day earlier, the largest increase posted by any country since the pandemic started, according to a Reuters tally. U.S. deaths on Friday rose by at least 912, the fourth day in a row that fatalities have exceeded 900 a day.

In the state of Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp sued Atlanta's mayor to prevent her from mandating masks. Americans have become divided along political lines over mask orders, with conservatives more likely than liberals to call the rules a violation of their Constitutional rights.

Trump has urged a return to normal, stressing the importance of reigniting the economy. The Trump administration and some health experts argue children are better off in classrooms for their development, and also to allow parents to return to work. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease specialist, has consistently urged people to wear masks whenever they are in public.

During the interview, the president was also asked about police violence against Black Americans and calls to ban Confederate flags and tear down monuments to Confederate military leaders.
Trump declined to say the Confederate flag was an offensive symbol, saying it is a source of pride for some Americans.
"They like the south. People right now, like the south. I'd say it's freedom of many things, but it's freedom of speech," he said. "I'm not offended either by Black Lives Matter. That's freedom of speech."

Trump has in the past appeared sympathetic to the flag and symbols of the Confederacy of 1861-65 American Civil War. In 2017, he decried the removal of monuments to the Confederacy, laying blame on "both sides" in Charlottesville, Virginia, after protests against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general. Earlier this month, he criticized NASCAR's ban of the Confederate flag from its events.

Trump has promised a veto, breaking with several of his fellow Republicans in Congress, of the annual National Defense Authorization Act over an amendment to remove the names of Confederate generals from military bases within a year. "We won World Wars out of these, out of these military bases, no I'm not gonna go changing them," Trump said.

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