President Donald Trump’s coronavirus briefing on Thursday featured the unexpected appearance of his son-in-law Jared Kushner who, along with Admiral John Polowczyk and Peter Navarro tried to focus on one of the pressing issues of the crisis: The urgent need for masks, ventilators and other medical supplies.
And while there were updates on the delivery of things such as 200,000 marks sent to New York and the federal government acquiring 100,000 ventilators, the effect was still one of confusion.
After Kushner, Polowczyk and Navarro addressed issues with the supply chain, MSNBC broke in with Chuck Todd who said, “before the day began, if you were to ask me, who is playing point on these supply chain issues, I thought the answer was FEMA and Peter Gaynor.” He was referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its administrator, Peter Gaynor, who was not at the briefing.
“And today, you hear from Jared Kushner. Today, we hear from the Rear Admiral. Today hear from Peter Navarro. We don’t hear from Peter Gaynor, the FEMA chair. Just like there seems to be some questions about the supply chain that the rear admiral was a bit uncomfortable talking about, there seems to still be questions about, who is in charge here?”
But that has been true throughout the crisis, as Trump’s approach has been to downplay the severity, then to act as a wartime president, then to propose reopening the economy by Easter, before this week acknowledging the grim reality of projections showing 100,000 to 240,000 deaths from the pandemic.
He’s also been adamant that the blame for the slow response rests with the states while at times questioning the magnitude of the requests for supplies.
Earlier on Thursday, Trump tweeted, “Massive amounts of medical supplies, even hospitals and medical centers, are being delivered directly to states and hospitals by the Federal Government. Some have insatiable appetites & are never satisfied (politics?). Remember, we are a backup for them.”
Later, he responded to Chuck Schumer’s call for a single point person to oversee the supply chain, given a patchwork of volunteer and private industry efforts, with a scathing letter back to the fellow New Yorker.
At the briefing, Trump again put the blame on states for not being prepared for a pandemic, as some governors, like New York’s Andrew Cuomo, have complained about having to compete with other states in bidding for badly needed protective gear.
The White House, though, has said that the federal government should be a “secondary source.”
“They have to work that out,” Trump said of the states. “Long before this pandemic arrived, they should have been on the open market just buying. There was no competition. You could have gotten a great price. The state has to stock up. It’s like one of those things, they waited.”
Then he insisted, “So much is being done right now, in terms of protective gears, protective outfits. A lot is being done.”
Kushner, who said he is assisting Vice President Mike Pence, the leader of the coronavirus task force, said that, “The notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use.”
CNN and MSNBC cut back and forth from the briefing, which stretched to 136 minutes, even though they’ve taken some heat from the White House and the Trump campaign for doing so. But as the briefing went on, even Fox News ended live coverage of the session at 7 PM ET to get to its coronavirus town hall.