U.S. households are being mailed a version of the COVID-19 guidelines released almost two weeks ago by the White House Coronavirus Task Force — and the guidelines are specifically called “President Trump’s,” a designation some argue comes across as political.
The postcard is part of the “Slow the Spread” campaign launched by the White House on March 16.
The strict guidelines and advice contained on the mailed postcard are largely similar to those released nearly two weeks ago — encouraging Americans to take social distancing seriously and practice good hygiene. It also advises them to “listen and follow the directions of your state and local authorities.”
But on the front of the postcard, below the phrase “slow the spread,” there is larger font that reads, “President Trump’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America.”
The document released by the White House on March 16 read, “The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America.” Below that, in larger font, it read, “15 Days to Slow the Spread.” Vice President Mike Pence held up a printed version of these guidelines during an interview Friday on CNBC.
Both of the guideline documents contain the logos of the White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a Coronavirus Task Force news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, March 23, 2020.
Chirs Kleponis | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Richard Painter, who served as chief ethics lawyer in President George W. Bush’s administration, told CNBC the advisory postcard does not appear to be unlawful.
“This notice does not specifically mention Trump’s candidacy for reelection, his campaign or any of his campaign slogans … so it is probably legally permissible for him to use federal funds to do this in his official capacity,” Painter said in an email.
But Painter, who has previously been critical of Trump, said he felt the decision to label the “critically important health advisory” as being Trump’s guidelines was “unwise.”
“Half the Country likes him; half the Country does not. But disease knows no party. Don’t we want all Americans to read the message that is mailed to them at substantial cost to the government?” said Painter, who added he felt the postcard was meant to serve Trump’s bid for reelection.
White House Spokesman Judd Deere rejected the notion that the postcard was at all political.
“The President has said he has no higher priority than the health and safety of the American people,” Deere wrote in an email. “It’s ridiculous to suggest that in the middle of a global pandemic the White House’s efforts to get critical information to the American people to slow the spread of COVID-19 is somehow political.”
A spokesperson for the United States Postal Service said every residential location, including PO boxes, in the U.S. were sent the postcard. There were 130 million advisories sent, according to the spokesperson.
The spokesperson said the USPS was committed to helping the Trump administration and CDC “provide important information concerning the COVID-19 virus to every American household.”
A recent Gallup poll found 60% of Americans approved of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis; 38% said they disapprove. His 49% overall approval rating matched his highest mark in the Gallup poll.