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President Trump did not wear a protective face mask while on-camera during his visit to a Ford plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on Thursday, ignoring a warning from the state’s top law enforcement official amid a political feud with local lawmakers during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I had one on before. I wore one in the back area, but I didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it," Trump said.
He added that wearing a mask was "not necessary" during the tour because "everyone has been tested."
Trump toured the Ford facility, which was converted to manufacture much-needed ventilators during the COVID-19 crisis. The medical devices, used to treat COVID-19 patients struggling with severe respiratory symptoms, have been in short supply in Michigan and other states.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, warned ahead of Trump’s visit that both Ford policy and current state law required the use of face masks in enclosed spaces. She said Trump was “going to be asked not to return to any enclosed facilities inside our state” in the future if he refused to wear a mask.
Ford requires that all of its factory workers wear personal protective equipment, including masks.
“Bill Ford encouraged President Trump to wear a mask when he arrived," the company said in a statement. "He wore a mask during a private viewing of three Ford GTs from over the years. The President later removed the mask for the remainder of the visit."
Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order barring all nonessential in-person visits and tours, but Nessel said her office would not block Trump’s visit.
The president’s visit to the Ford plant occurred amid mounting discord between his office and state officials. Michigan is expected to be a key battleground state during the 2020 presidential election.
Trump ripped Michigan officials earlier this week for sending out absentee ballot applications to voters ahead of the election, tweeting that the move was “done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State.” He threatened to withhold federal funding over the mailings.
Trump has argued that mail-in ballots could lead to voter fraud.
Whitmer has traded barbs with Trump in recent months over the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, especially the dispersal of key medical devices such as ventilators and personal protective equipment for first responders. The Michigan governor was critical of Trump’s threat to cut funding over absentee ballots.
Meanwhile, Trump has criticized Whitmer over her continued enforcement of stay-at-home orders during the pandemic as other states began relaxing similar restrictions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.