President Donald Trump went after the acting inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at his daily coronavirus briefing on Monday, raging over a recent report highlighting “severe shortages of testing supplies” in some hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Give me the name of the inspector general,” Trump said at one point. “Could politics be entered into that?”
The president took the opportunity to lash out at reporters as he suggested the official, Christi Grimm, was biased. He called for an answer on how long she’d been in government, and then began to both mock the official and a reporter when he was told she’d also served under former President Barack Obama’s administration.
“You mean the Obama administration?” Trump said. “Thank you for telling me that. See there’s a typical fake news deal. You’re a third rate reporter and what you just said is a disgrace, OK?”
According to the HHS website, Grimm became the principal deputy inspector general focusing on HHS in January of this year. She started in the inspector general’s office in 1999 in the role of program evaluator, according to her bio. The HHS site also details that Grimm served from 2014 to 2019, as the “Chief of Staff and Deputy Inspector General for the Immediate Office,” which would have covered both the Trump administration and the later stages of Obama’s White House tenure.
Asked by a journalist earlier in the briefing about the watchdog survey showing widespread complaints about dire shortages of supplies for testing and lengthy wait times for results, Trump interjected, “that’s just wrong.”
“Did I hear the word inspector general? Really? It’s wrong,” he claimed. “And they’ll talk to you about it. It’s wrong.”
According to the report, which covered the period from March 23 to the 27, “hospitals reported that severe shortages of testing supplies and extended waits for test results limited hospitals’ ability to monitor the health of patients and staff.”
Pressed further on the report that came from his own government, Trump repeatedly demanded reporters give him the name of the inspector general—and painted a rosy picture of his administration’s much-criticized handling of the pandemic.
“We’ve done more testing and had more results than any country anywhere in the world,” Trump declared. “They’re doing (an) incredible job.”
Later during the briefing, the president grew increasingly hostile when pressed about the report and testing. He declared that hospitals and states should also “be doing testing.”
“We’re the federal government,” Trump said. “We’re not supposed to stand on street corners doing testing.”
Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for Health at HHS, also jumped to the president’s defense, criticizing the report as being done “during our ramp up period.”
“Quite a long time ago,” Giroir said of the report, which was conducted just a few weeks ago, adding it was “hard to interpret the report because it mixes up all kinds of things.”
“I don’t know the inspector general,” Giroir said. “I don’t know that person. I tell you one thing I have a problem with. If there was such a problem that she knew about it, or he knew about, on March 23 and 24, why did I find out about the tests from them on the news media at 8 o’clock this morning.”
The report explains that it serves as “a national snapshot of hospitals’ challenges and needs.”
“This is not a review of HHS response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report says.
The details in the survey, according to a note from the release, came from “brief telephone interviews...with hospital administrators from 323 hospitals across 46 States.”
“Hospitals reported that their most significant challenges centered on testing and caring for patients with known or suspected COVID-19 and keeping staff safe,” according to the report’s key takeaway section. “Hospitals also reported substantial challenges maintaining or expanding their facilities’ capacity to treat patients with COVID-19.”