President Trump invoked a Korean War-era act "if we need it" as part of a plan to combat the coronavirus. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump says he has invoked the Defense Production Act but has provided few details about what he's ordered to address the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.

Why it matters: Hospitals around the country are coping with a lack of medical supplies and respirators as the number of Americans in need of treatment for COVID-19 rises. The act would authorize Trump to use his presidential powers to direct the private sector to ramp up the production of critically needed materials, like masks and ventilators, in the interest of national defense.

  • At a news briefing on Friday, Trump said he had invoked the act "yesterday," but at Thursday's briefing confirmed he had proceeded with no authorizations under the act.
  • Trump said Thursday the states are responsible for adequate supplies to hospitals, and that he would make orders under the act "if we were desperately in need of something -- and we, frankly, will know about that very shortly."

What it does: President Harry Truman signed the Defense Production Act of 1950 to address the lack of war-time equipment during the Korean War, but Congress has expanded the act to generally cover all national emergencies. Presidents have invoked it more than 50 times during crises like hurricanes and to prevent terrorism.

  • It lets the president provide the private sector with incentives to "expand the production and supply of critical materials and goods," through loans, loan guarantees, direct purchases, and purchase commitments.
  • The president could also require companies to prioritize government contracts and orders that are for national defense interests.
  • The president could establish voluntary agreements with private industries and block proposed foreign corporate mergers, acquisitions, or takeovers that threaten national security.

The act was most recently invoked in 2017 after the Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, as the Federal Emergency Management Agency looked to prioritize contracts for food, bottled water, manufactured housing units.

Go deeper

Judge orders Eric Trump to testify in New York probe before election

Photo: Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

A judge on Wednesday ordered Eric Trump to comply with a subpoena to testify before the presidential election in a New York probe into the Trump family business.

The state of play: New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) last month said her office had filed a lawsuit to compel the Trump Organization to comply with subpoenas related to an investigation into whether President Trump and his company improperly inflated the value of its assets on financial statements.

1 hour ago - Podcasts

Reid Hoffman and Mark Pincus on the rise of Silicon Valley SPACs

Silicon Valley venture capitalists are no longer content with investing in startups and then eventually handing them off. Instead, many are now forming SPACs, or blank-check acquisition companies, to ride tech unicorns into the public markets themselves.

Axios Re:Cap digs into this trend with the co-founders of a new tech SPAC called Reinvent Technology Partners: Reid Hoffman, a co-founder of LinkedIn and partner at Greylock, and Mark Pincus, the founder and former CEO of Zynga.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2:30 p.m. ET: 31,717,955 — Total deaths: 973,014 Total recoveries: 21,795,005Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2:30 p.m. ET: 6,913,046 — Total deaths: 201,319 — Total recoveries: 2,646,959 — Total tests: 96,612,436Map.
  3. Health: CDC director says over 90% of Americans have not yet been exposed to coronavirus — Supply shortages continue to plague testing.
  4. Politics: Fauci clashes with Rand Paul at COVID hearing: "You're not listening" — FDA chief vows agency will not accept political pressure on coronavirus vaccine.
  5. Vaccines: Johnson & Johnson begins large phase 3 trial — The FDA plans to toughen standards.
  6. Sports: Less travel is causing the NBA to see better basketball.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!