Trump lashes out at Schumer over call for supply czar

President Trump on Thursday criticized Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for calling on him to tap a czar to oversee the distribution of medical equipment amid the coronavirus outbreak, and appeared to blame the top Democrat for the current situation in the city and state. 

“Somebody please explain to Cryin’ Chuck Schumer that we do have a military man in charge of distributing goods, a very talented Admiral, in fact,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning, referring to Rear Adm. John Polowczyk, who is leading FEMA’s supply chain task force. “New York has gotten far more than any other State, including hospitals & a hospital ship, but no matter what, always complaining.”

Trump then suggested Schumer “should have pushed harder” to ensure New York, which has emerged as the epicenter of the domestic coronavirus outbreak, had adequate supplies to deal with the crisis.

“It wouldn’t matter if you got ten times what was needed, it would never be good enough. Unlike other states, New York unfortunately got off to a late start. You should have pushed harder. Stop complaining & find out where all of these supplies are going. [New York Gov. Andrew] Cuomo working hard!” Trump wrote.

In an interview with CNN Wednesday evening, Schumer argued that the White House coronavirus task force is ill-prepared to ensure supplies get to states that need them, describing a “dramatic shortage” of supplies like protective masks and ventilators. Schumer called on Trump to appoint a senior military official as a czar to oversee production and distribution of medical equipment. 

“There’s a dramatic shortage of all the needed supplies or most of them, whether it’s masks, whether it’s [Personal Protective Equipment] PPE … whether it’s ventilators. And we have no one really in charge,” Schumer told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “We have this awful spectacle of governors bidding against one another.” 

Trump has been roundly criticized by Democrats for not quickly or sufficiently putting into use the Defense Production Act, a law that allows him to compel companies to produce critical medical supplies amid the outbreak. Under pressure, Trump used the authority to compel General Motors (GM) to produce ventilators last week after talks between the administration and GM broke down. 

Trump has also downplayed the need for ventilators in New York despite Cuomo saying the state would need 30,000 ventilators and on Sunday suggested hospitals were hoarding ventilators and other critical medical equipment.  

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said Wednesday that the city needs 400 ventilators and 3.3 million face masks by Sunday in order to adequately supply hospitals treating patients amid the pandemic.

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