Trump Boosts Aid, Warns Governors 03/28 08:39
After days of desperate pleas from the nation's governors, President Donald
Trump took a round of steps to expand the federal government's role in helping
produce critically needed supplies to fight the coronavirus pandemic even as he
warned the leaders of hard-hit states not to cross him.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- After days of desperate pleas from the nation's
governors, President Donald Trump took a round of steps to expand the federal
government's role in helping produce critically needed supplies to fight the
coronavirus pandemic even as he warned the leaders of hard-hit states not to
"I want them to be appreciative," Trump said Friday after the White House
announced that he would be using the powers granted to him under the Korean
War-era Defense Production Act to try to compel auto giant General Motors to
Yet Trump --- who hours earlier had suggested the need for the devices was
being overblown --- rejected any criticism of the federal government's response
to a ballooning public health crisis that a month ago he predicted would be
over by now.
"We have done a hell of a job," Trump said, as he sent an ominous message to
state and local leaders who have been urging the federal government to do more
to help them save lives.
Trump said he had instructed Vice President Mike Pence not to call the
governors of Washington or Michigan --- two coronavirus hotspots --- because of
their public criticism. "If they don't treat you right, I don't call," Trump
The comments came after Trump unveiled a slew of executive actions to
bolster states' capacities to respond to the pandemic, including authorizing
Defense Secretary Mark Esper to call up an unspecified number of federal
reservists to help with the coronavirus response.
Friday's invocation "should demonstrate clearly to all that we will not
hesitate to use the full authority of the federal government to combat this
crisis," Trump said.
Trump had been saying for more than a week that he was reluctant to use the
Defense Production Act --- even after he invoked it --- because companies were
already doing what he wanted and he didn't need arm-twisting to make them
Yet Trump continued to suggest that states' own failures were to blame for
the needed intervention. "Normally these would be bought for states, just so
you understand," he said.
The nation's governors have been exerting growing pressure on the president
to do more to bolster supplies, despite the perceived risks of speaking out.
From New York to Washington, they have pleaded with him to use the DPA to force
companies to manufacture critical equipment. And they have begged for help in
obtaining supplies like masks and testing agents, saying that states have been
forced to compete against one another as well as the federal government on the
open market, driving up prices, even as federal officials have pledged their
help if states fail.
The notoriously thin-skinned Trump has not taken well to their criticism.
Instead, he has lashed out at the governors, continued to diminish the risk
posed by the virus and insisted that the federal government was only a "backup"
as he looked to avoid political costs from a pandemic that has reshaped his
presidency and tested his reelection plans.
In a Thursday night interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, Trump declared
that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee "should be doing more" and "shouldn't be
relying on the federal government." He dismissed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's
requests for additional ventilators to keep patients alive, saying, "I don't
believe you need 40,000 or 30,000" of the devices, which force air into the
lungs of those too sick to breathe. And he said he was still weighing Michigan
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's request for a disaster declaration, saying, "We've had
a big problem with the young, a woman governor from, you know who I'm talking
about, from Michigan."
"You know," he added from the White House, "we don't like to see the
On Saturday, however, the White House announced that Trump had approved
Whitmer's request on Friday and ordered federal assistance be provided to
The administration's mantra, frequently articulated by Mike Pence, has long
been that the fight against the virus must be "locally executed, state managed,
and federally supported."
But Trump has show little public empathy for the states' predicament, with
his emphasis skewed toward the "locally executed" portion of that trifecta.
Whitmer, in particular, has criticized the administration's response to the
pandemic --- including on national cable TV shows -- saying that the federal
government should do more and that Michigan's allotment of medical supplies
from the national stockpile is meager.
"It's very distressing," the Democratic governor told radio station WWJ. "I
observed early on, like a lot of governors on both sides of the aisle, that the
federal preparation was concerning. That apparently struck a nerve, and I've
been uniquely singled out despite my voice not being the only one that observed
that," she said.
"I don't go into personal attacks. I don't have time for that," she said. "I
need partnership out of the federal government. We have to be all hands on deck
Cuomo has also been on the forefront, some days criticizing the
administration's failure to act and at other times commending federal
assistance. But the New York Democrat has remained clear that the state, which
is now the epicenter of the crisis, needs many more ventilators than it has at
"That's what the data and the science said," Cuomo said Friday as he
defended his ask for additional ventilators and issued a new request to
Washington for an additional 41,000 beds in temporary hospitals.
"What is unclear to me is why the federal administration refuses to direct
industries to manufacture critical PPE," Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat,
said Wednesday, referring to personal protective equipment. "I'm not
exaggerating when I say this outrageous lack of action will result in lost
lives. Including those of our health care workers."
"The governors have been very gracious, for the most part," Trump said
Friday. But he complained that, "There are a couple that aren't appreciative"
of the "incredible job" he claimed to be doing, adding: "They have to do a
better job themselves, that's part of the problem."
Just a month ago, Trump was predicting the U.S. was days away from being
"close to zero" coronavirus cases. Now, the country has more than 100,000 cases
The Friday order Trump signed on General Motors instructs his administration
to explore forcing the company to accept and prioritize federal contracts to
produce ventilators. He also sent a letter to Congress on Friday that said he
had authorized Esper to order units and individual members of the Selected
Reserve, as well as certain Individual Ready Reserve members, to active duty.
They are separate from, and in addition to, National Guard members who have
been mobilized by state governors.
The reserve call-up likely is intended to fill gaps in medical expertise as
the military deploys field hospitals to cities hard hit by COVID-19 and
provides other forms of medical support to state and local authorities.
Trump also named trade adviser Peter Navarro to lead the government's
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such
as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially
older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe
illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority recover.