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Trump says anti-lockdown protesters were "doing social distancing." They clearly weren't

Less than one week after encouraging his supporters to "liberate" states from their varying "stay at home" orders, President Trump on Tuesday insisted that the assorted crew of right-wing gun fanatics and conspiracy theorists who did turn out were indeed following the social distancing guidelines that have become key in helping stem the spread of coronavirus.

Of course, this is visibly untrue.

Asked Tuesday during his nightly coronavirus briefing about supporting the anti-stay-at-home rallies, despite the fact that his own medical advisers declare the protests to be medically inadvisable and unhelpful, Trump offered a rambling defense:

I've watched some of the protests, not in great detail, but I see that. And they're separated, they're ... a lot of space in between. I mean, they're watching, believe it or not, social ... they're doing social distancing, if you can believe it. And they are. And they're protesting, but they ... they're ... the groups I've seen have been very much spread out. So, I think that's good. Look, people want to get back to work. They gotta make a living. They have to take care of their family. They don't want to do this.

While the president didn't specify which protests he'd watched, even the most cursory glance at the various anti-social distancing rallies would have shown crowds of people not only standing shoulder-to-shoulder, but in many cases admitting that their actions would likely result in infection.

After claiming on Tuesday that the president did, in fact, want protesters to "liberate" their respective states while simultaneously respecting social distancing guidelines, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway responded to footage of the decidedly un-socially distanced rallies by pivoting to attack Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), whom, Conway snarked, has "physically distanced from common sense."

Whitmer has taken decisive action in her state as the coronavirus crisis has ballooned there. As a result, she's attracted Trump's ire, as the president once dismissively referred to her as "the woman in Michigan" and advised Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the administration's coronavirus task force, not to take her calls.

The cumulative result of this seemingly coordinated effort from the White House is clear: The president is continuing to provide cover for, and lend his tacit support to, the ongoing protests, while offering the laughably transparent veneer of deniability to the Capitol Hill press corps.

For now, with Trump's de facto blessing, it seems a safe bet to assume that these anti-quarantine protests will continue in some form or another. The only question remaining is: How many people will get unnecessarily sick as a result?