President Donald Trump lashed out at Gov. Jay Inslee on Sunday, calling him “a nasty person” and “a failed presidential candidate” and said he won’t call him — but has not halted his top aides from aiding Washington state.
In a news conference at the White House, Trump was asked by a CNN reporter about comments last week in which he warned governors “to be appreciative” of the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and suggested Vice President Mike Pence, who is heading the response, shouldn’t take calls from state executives “that don’t treat you right.”
Trump called the question dishonest, but he vented about Inslee.
“No, I don’t call the governor of Washington now. But Mike Pence calls, and the head of FEMA calls. I don’t stop them. Did I ever ask you to do anything negative, Mike, to Washington or the state of Washington?” he said, turning to Pence. “No, I don’t have to call because I am probably better off not, because we don’t get — he’s a failed presidential candidate, he is a nasty person. I don’t like the governor of Washington.”
The president said of those criticizing his administration’s coronavirus response, “When they disrespect me, they are disrespecting our government,” pointing to agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers. “And you know what? I don’t mind If I am disrespected, but they can’t disrespect the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA,” he said, before launching into a tirade about CNN as “fake news.”
Inslee, a frequent and vocal critic of the president, failed to garner much attention from Trump last year during his climate-change focused bid for the Democratic presidential nomination last. But he clearly has gotten under Trump’s skin in recent weeks.
During a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month, Trump called Inslee “a snake” and said he told Pence “not to be complimentary” in meeting with Inslee “because he will take advantage.” On Thursday, Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that governors like Inslee “should be doing more” and “shouldn’t be relying on the federal government.”
Despite the mutual public disdain between Inslee and Trump, Pence and the governor have worked together in addressing the coronavirus crisis in Washington state, speaking multiple times on the phone and displaying a united front in public when they met March 5 at Camp Murray.
Inslee last week tried to brush off Trump’s comments, saying he would not allow “personal attacks from the president to distract me from what matters: beating this virus and keeping Washingtonians healthy.” On Saturday, he welcomed U.S. Army doctors to a field hospital site in Seattle and said he wasn’t getting distracted by “background noise” out of the White House.
Inslee’s office declined additional comment Sunday. “Since the governor has addressed this over the past couple days, we will just let his previous statements stand,” said Tara Lee, a spokeswoman for the governor, in an email.