President Trump briefs reports on April 2. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images
President Trump accused Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of being "missing in action" during the coronavirus crisis, writing in a scathing letter on Thursday that Schumer's focus on the "ridiculous impeachment hoax" resulted in New York being ill-prepared for the pandemic.
Why it matters: It's a blistering response to Schumer urging Trump to assign a senior military officer to enforce the Defense Production Act to produce more medical supplies.
The big picture: The president formally authorized the use of the Defense Production Act to ramp up domestic ventilator production on Thursday, and said he had appointed White House trade adviser Peter Navarro to enforce the act last week.
- Rear Adm. John Polowczyk is in charge of coordinating America's coronavirus supply chain and is seeking to fill the most urgent needs: ventilators and personal protective gear.
- So far, the authority of the DPA has only been used to compel ventilator production — and not other personal protective gear or medical supplies, like surgical masks and gloves.
What they're saying:
- Schumer: "While companies that volunteer to produce ventilators and PPEE are to be commended and are appreciated, America cannot rely on a patchwork of uncoordinated voluntary efforts to combat the awful magnitude of this pandemic. It is long past time for your Administration to designate a senior military officer to fix this urgent problem."
- Trump: "The Defense Production Act (DPA) has been consistently used by my team and me for the purchase of billions of dollars' worth of equipment, medical supplies, ventilators, and other related items. It has been powerful leverage, so powerful that companies general do whatever we are asking, without even a formal notice. They know something is coming, and that's all they need to know."
The bottom line: The letter, which appears on White House letterhead, reads much like a Trump tweet would. The president finishes by writing: "I’ve known you for many years, but I never knew how bad a Senator you are for the state of New York, until I became President.