President Donald Trump was not having it when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused him failing to adequately coordinate the country’s coronavirus response, especially in the areas hardest hit by the pandemic, such as Schumer’s home state of New York.
In a Thursday letter to Trump, Schumer also called on the president to place a military officer in charge of the logistics chain for medical supplies, which the commander in chief had in fact done by March 23.
The New York Democrat wrote, “As the Coronavirus spreads rapidly into every corner of our nation and its terrible, grim toll grows more severe with each passing day, the tardiness and inadequacy of this Administration’s response to the crisis becomes more painfully evident.”
“Well-documented shortages of protective equipment, tests, and medical supplies are now beyond acute in my home state of New York and other hard-hit areas, and similar shortages are expected soon in many other parts of our country,” Schumer continued.
He argued that while private companies volunteering to make personal protective gear and other needed medical equipment are to be commended, “America cannot rely on a patchwork of uncoordinated voluntary efforts to combat the awful magnitude of this pandemic.”
“It is long past the time for your Administration to designate a senior military officer to fix this urgent problem. That officer should be given full authority under the Defense Production Act (DPA) to complete and rapidly implement a plan for the increased production, procurement and distribution of critically-needed medical devices and equipment,” Schumer wrote.
Trump responded in a pointed letter of his own Thursday addressing the issues Schumer raised and placing some blame on the senator’s lack of preparedness for the coronavirus.
“Thank you for your Democrat public relations letter and incorrect sound bites, which are wrong in every way,” the president wrote to open the letter.
He then noted that Vice President Mike Pence is leading the federal government’s coronavirus task force and “by all accounts” the former Indiana governor is doing a “spectacular job.”
“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,” Trump wrote.
“It has been powerful leverage, so powerful that companies generally do whatever we are asking, without even a formal notice. They know something is coming, and that’s all they need to know,” he continued.
The president then turned to Schumer’s call for Trump to place a military officer in charge to federally coordinate the logistics of medical supplies, pointing out that Navy Rear Adm. John Polowczyk is that person. The president identified him as such in a coronavirus task force briefing March 23.
“A ‘senior military officer’ is in charge of purchasing, distributing, etc,” Trump wrote to Schumer. “His name is Rear Admiral John Polowczyk. He is working 24 hours a day, and is highly respected by everyone. If you remember, my team gave you this information, but for public relations purposes, you choose to ignore it.”
At the March 23 briefing, Polowczyk described his duties as the “Supply Chain Task Force lead at FEMA.”
“My task is to increase the supply of critical medical supplies, which include personal protective equipment and ventilators,” the admiral said.
Trump reiterated at Wednesday’s coronavirus task force briefing that Polowczyk is coordinating the medical supplies logistics chain and doing a “fantastic job.”
President Trump sets Senator Schumer straight regarding Schumer’s letter stating Trump should put a military man in charge. pic.twitter.com/6ghziIGy7b
— The Daily Wire (@realDailyWire) April 2, 2020
“We have one of the most highly respected people in the military, the admiral,” the president said. “This is what he does too, very professionally, and he’s in charge. But Chuck didn’t know that.”
Polowczyk told reporters doing his job well is both a matter of professional duty and personal interest to him.
“The president gave me one task: Get more to our health care workers now,” the naval officer recounted Thursday, clearly fighting back some emotion. “I took that to heart because … I have family in New York. My sister is a nurse practitioner in a Westchester hospital, and my niece is a nurse [in] a Long Island hospital.”
“So I have skin in this game,” Polowczyk said. “The president asked me to get more to health care workers. I’m going to get more to health care workers.”
Trump began to draw his letter to Schumer to a close by suggesting the senator was too distracted by impeachment to focus on the unfolding pandemic in January and early February.
“If you spent less time on your ridiculous impeachment hoax, which went haplessly on forever and ended up going nowhere (except increasing my poll numbers), and instead focused on helping the people of New York, then New York would not have been so completely unprepared for the ‘invisible enemy,'” Trump wrote.
The president accused Schumer of remaining missing in action while the federal government works directly with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Trump encouraged the senator to call if he has any questions.
“Or, in the alternative, call Rear Admiral Polowczyk,” he wrote.
Schumer responded to the president in a Thursday evening tweet, saying he had sent a “serious letter” and Trump’s reply was “petty” and “unserious.”
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