President Donald Trump gave a meandering rebuttal to Joe Biden's call for Americans to wear masks for the next three months to combat the spread of coronavirus.
At the top of Thursday's briefing, Trump attacked Biden for politicizing the pandemic, ignoring science and forcing Americans into their basements.
'Americans must have their freedoms,' Trump announced.
President Donald Trump gave a meandering rebuttal from the White House podium to Joe Biden's call for Americans to wear masks for the next three months to stop the spread of the coronavirus
Trump accused Biden of politicizing the pandemic, taking away Americans' freedoms, trying to lock them in basements and he said Biden's immigration policy would flood the country with more coronavirus cases
The presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden (right) announced Thursday that he believed there should be a nationwide mask mandate for the next three months to save the lives of 40,000 Americans from the coronavirus
Both Joe Biden (right) and his newly announced running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (left) appeared at the Hotel Du Pont in Wilmington, Delaware wearing masks before they briefly addressed the public
The president suggested Biden's plan was toothless because he didn't articulate how the federal government had the power to instruct 300-plus million Americans to cover their mouths with cloth.
'He does not identify with what authority the president has to issue such a mandate or how federal law enforcement could possibly enforce it. Or why we would be stepping on governors throughout our country,' Trump said.
The president also lashed out at his political rival for not taking questions from reporters after Biden made the mask policy announcement in Delaware.
'That's why he refused, Biden, to take questions, he couldn't answer any of them, couldn't answer the questions,' the president said. 'He refuses to take questions. He never takes questions. I take questions, he never takes questions, and you sort of wonder what's going on, because they're not that difficult.'
'Some can be nasty, but they're not that difficult,' Trump added.
Trump said his administration had a 'different approach' - which has been mixed messaging for months on mask-wearing.
'We have urged Americans to wear masks. And I emphasized this is a patriotic thing to do,' Trump said. 'Maybe they're great and maybe they're good, maybe they're not so good, but frankly what do you have to lose?'
The comment was one of many the president has made to sow doubt on masks' effectiveness, despite the Centers for Disease Control issuing mask-wearing recommendations on April 3.
'Sleepy Joe rejects the scientific approach in favor of locking all Americans in their basements for months on end,' Trump also claimed. 'This would lead to a crippling, long-lasting depression.'
He also accused the presumptive Democratic nominee of wanting to infect Americans with coronavirus through a more liberal immigration policy.
'Joe Biden wants to fling open American borders allowing the pandemic to infiltrate every U.S. community based on his policies. He wants to have ridiculous open borders,' Trump said.
'But while Joe Biden would allow rioters and looters and criminals and millions of illegal aliens to roam free in our country, he wants the federal government to issue a sweeping new mandate to law abiding citizens, he wants the president of the United States with the stroke of a pen to order over 300 million American citizens to wear a mask for a minimum of three straight months,' he continued.
'He thinks it's good politics, I guess,' Trump added.
Trump's latest Biden rant parroted many of the criticisms being railed at him as polling shows a majority of Americans disapprove of the job he's done handling the coronavirus.
At the Biden-Harris event Thursday in Delaware, Biden opened up with his plans for a mask mandate.
'That is what real leadership looks like, we just witnessed real leadership,' Kamala Harris said taking the podium and praising Joe Biden. Biden announced she was his pick for the vice presidency on Tuesday
Sen. Kamala Harris, wearing a mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, watches her running mate, Joe Biden, speak in Wilmington, Delaware on Thursday
'Every single American should be wearing a mask when they're outside for the next three months, at a minimum,' he said.
But he suggested it would be something, as president, he would encourage governors to do.
'Every governor should mandate mask-wearing,' Biden said during his brief remarks.
His new running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, chimed in saying, 'That is what real leadership looks like, we just witnessed real leadership' - though neither Democrat took reporters' questions at the event.
Biden and Harris participated in a briefing with medical experts Thursday on the COVID-19 crisis at Wilmington's swanky Hotel du Pont and then each delivered short remarks.
Biden said that experts estimated the move could save 40,000 American lives in the next three months, 'if people act responsibly,' the former vice president said.
'It's not about your rights. It's about your responsibilities as Americans,' Biden went on. 'Again when I occasionally get confronted with a person in public about wearing a mask I say, "Look, this is America, be a patriot. Protect your fellow citizens ... step up, do the right thing.'"
Trump has politicized mask-wearing over the past four months as COVID-19 continues to spread and kill Americans.
He, at first, refused to be seen publicly wearing a mask amid the pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on April 3 that mask-wearing was recommended in order to prevent those unknowingly infected with COVID-19 from passing it on.
'Well, I just don't want to wear one myself,' Trump said that day at the daily briefing.
The Associated Press reported in May that Trump feared wearing a mask would 'send the wrong message.'
He said he'd look ridiculous and worried those images would be used in political attack ads.
The president has since sporadically worn one, but not mandated mask-wearing at his events.
His disastrous June 20 campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, featured a number of high-profile Republicans sans mask, including GOP 2012 presidential candidate Herman Cain, who's now dead from the virus.
Cain's people said they couldn't be sure where the 74-year-old cancer survivor contracted the disease, though he tested positive of COVID-19 nine days after the rally.
On masks generally, Biden said, 'I hope the president has learned the lesson.'
Harris also suggested that Trump was overpromising the expediency on which vaccines would be distributed to the American people.
'And when Joe talks about this, I think it's important that the American people looking at the election coming up ask the current occupant of the White House when am I going to get vaccinated?' Harris said. 'There may be some grand gestures offered by the current president about a vaccine, but it really doesn't matter until you can answer the question, when am I going to get vaccinated?'
As they wrapped their remarks, reporters from the pool shouted a number of questions, which the Democratic duo ignored.
Earlier in the day, Biden answered a query about Trump's refusal to fund the Postal Service.
Trump had tied funding to wanting to stop the election proceeding by mail-in voting.
'Pure Trump. He doesn’t want an election,' Biden scoffed.