President Donald Trump kicked off his Monday coronavirus task force briefing by criticizing one of the leading Republican governors during the coronavirus pandemic.
At the start of the briefing, the president said the nation’s governors had been given “a list of the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the labs where they can find additional testing capacity within their states.”
“Hundreds and hundreds of labs are ready, willing, and able,” he insisted. “Some of the governors, like as an example the governor from Maryland, didn’t really understand the list. He didn’t understand too much about what was going on, so now I think he’ll be able to do that. It’s pretty simple.”
Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland, has emerged as one of the more hands-on state leaders during the pandemic. Hogan was mentioned frequently as a possible GOP primary challenger to Trump before publicly abandoning the idea in June.
The president’s relationship with the nation’s governors has been tense during the coronavirus pandemic, as some have not been shy about their issues with the federal government’s response.
During an appearance on CNN soon after Trump’s early briefing attack, Hogan said he didn’t “want to get into criticizing back and forth,” noting that Trump “was not on the call.”
Hogan guessed that what Trump may have been talking about was a list that was sent out to governors “of all of the different lab facilities in their states.” He said “most of the governors already knew where the lab facilities were in their states.”
While the list was appreciated, Hogan said, a large number on the Maryland list were federal facilities.
“They were either federal health facilities that we’ve been desperately trying to get help from or military installations, none of which were state owned labs or facilities where we could actually do any testing,” Hogan said. “But I’m not sure what the president’s referring to. I have a pretty good understanding of what’s going on, and I appreciated the information that was provided by his team, but he wasn't there for, I’m not sure what he was trying to say.”
Trump has made a point of criticizing Democratic governors, even calling on three Democratic states to be “liberated” on Twitter Friday. He continued to antagonize them early during Monday’s briefing.
States have to look at “their complete inventory of available capacity,” Trump said, before lashing out at Gov. J. B. Pritzker of Illinois.
“Some states have far more capacity than they actually understand, and it is a complex subject, but some of the governors didn’t understand it,” Trump said. “The governor as an example, Pritzker from Illinois did not understand his capacity. Not simply ask the federal government to provide unlimited support. You have to take the support where you have it, but we are there to stand with the governors and to help the governors and that’s what we’re doing.”
Trump became defensive again on the topic of ventilators and testing—which have become flash point issues during the public-health crisis—suggesting ventilators were a national talking point simply because people wanted to attack him.
“Remember it was all ventilators,” Trump said. “And the reason it was all ventilators, they said there’s no way he’ll ever be able to catch this one. And not only did we catch it, we are now the king of ventilators all over the world.”
During the press conference, Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus task force response coordinator, was also asked about South Carolina, where, according to the Columbia, S.C. newspaper The State, certain non-essential retail outlets can soon reopen.
“Shouldn’t they not be reopening stores today?” a reporter asked Birx.
Birx seemed to throw shade on South Carolina’s Republican leader, Gov. Henry McMaster, saying they have asked the nation’s governors to follow the guidance provided by the federal government.
“But each of the governors can decide for themselves whether they’ve reached specific guidelines in specific areas,” she conceded.
Hogan was further scorned by Trump before the briefing was over. The Maryland Republican’s office said Monday the state will get “500,000 COVID-19 tests from South Korea’s LabGenomic.”
“I don’t know what the governor of Maryland is doing in South Korea, but there is excess capacity every day,” said Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for Health at HHS.
Vice President Mike Pence then said he “wouldn’t begrudge him or his health officials for ordering tests.”
But moments later, Trump said the governor could have called Pence and “could have saved a lot of money.”
“No, I don’t think he needed to go to South Korea,” Trump insisted. “I think he needed to get a little knowledge. Would have been helpful.”
The briefing went off the rails before it ended. At one point, the president answered a reporter’s question by saying “a lot of people love Trump.”
“Lot of people love me, you see them all the time, right?” Trump said. “I guess I’m here for a reason. To the best of my knowledge I won, and I think we’re going to win again. I think we’re going to win in a landslide.”
Not long after, he returned to attacking the press, saying he thinks the media “foments a lot of anger,” and complained about times where he’s asked a “tremendously hostile question.”
“And then I’ll answer in a hostile way, which is appropriate, otherwise you look foolish,” Trump said. “Otherwise it looks like, just walk off the stage and bow your head. I can’t do that. I just can’t do that.”