LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Trump Administration Friday sent a warning letter to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer saying the Department of Justice was concerned they may pursue an “arbitrary and heavy-handed approach” to continued stay-at-home orders.
Eric S. Dreiband, assistant attorney general for the department’s Civil Rights Division, cited what he said were public comments made by both Garcetti and Ferrer.
“Reports of your recent public statements indicate that you suggested the possibility of long-term lockdown of the residents in the city and county of Los Angeles regardless of the legal justification for such restrictions,” the letter reads. “Any such approach may be both arbitrary and unlawful.”
A source inside the DOJ told CBS2 there was concern that Attorney General Bill Barr was behind the threat — part of a plan to pressure Democratic states to open quickly in an effort to help the president’s reelection campaign.
But when asked about the letter in a Friday briefing, Garcetti said he was not guided by politics when it comes to the city’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are guided by science, we are guided by collaboration,” he said. “There is nothing else. There’s no games, there’s nothing else going on and that’s the way we’re going to continue to safely open.”
At a public meeting earlier this month, Ferrer said the stay-at-home orders will “with all certainty” be extended for the next few months, drawing widespread attention and concern that the status quo would continue throughout the summer.
The city and county Safer at Home orders went into effect March 19 and have been extended twice, most recently without an end date specified.
Both jurisdictions, however, have relaxed a number of restrictions, including allowing retail shops, golf courses, beaches and hiking trails to reopen — with restrictions.
The letter came the same day Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, singled out Los Angeles as one of three regions that remain a significant concern.