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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 
cross him.

   "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 
produce ventilators.

   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 
said.

   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 
comply.

   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 
complaints."

   On Saturday, however, the White House announced that Trump had approved 
Whitmer's request on Friday and ordered federal assistance be provided to 
Michigan. 

   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 
here."

   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 
the ready.

   "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 
nationwide.

   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 
production effort.

   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.


(KR)

 
 
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