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Trump spars with reporter over Kushner's 'our stockpile' remark
President Trump defended his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner on Friday for suggesting the federal stockpile of medical resources was not for states, lashing out at a reporter for asking about the comments and accusing her of having a "nasty tone."
CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang asked Trump what Kushner meant when he referred to the national stockpile as "our stockpile" and implied it wasn't for states while appearing at the administration's daily coronavirus press conference the previous day.
"You know what 'our' means? United States of America," Trump told Jiang, labeling her inquiry as a "gotcha" question. "We take that - 'our' - and we distribute it to the states."
Pressed on why Kushner would assert the stockpile wasn't for states' use, Trump said that the federal government "needs it too" and decides which supplies to dole out to state governments.
"Because we need it for the government, we need it for the federal government," Trump said. "To keep for our country because the federal government needs it too, not just the states."
"Excuse me, he's talking about the federal government," Trump went on, growing angry at the reporter's question. "It's such a basic and simple question and you try and make it sound so bad. You ought to be ashamed of yourself."
Trump came to Kushner's defense after the senior adviser withstood scrutiny for the comments made during his first appearance alongside the coronavirus task force at a White House briefing on Thursday.
Kushner, who has been tapped to work closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to manage the medical supply chain amid the coronavirus pandemic, defended the administration's approach to sending medical supplies to areas of the country in need and urged states to have a better account of their own supplies.
"The notion of the federal stockpile was it's supposed to be our stockpile. It's not supposed to be states' stockpiles that they then use," Kushner told reporters. "So, we're encouraging the states to make sure that they're assessing the needs, they're getting the data from their local situations and then trying to fill it with the supplies that we've given them."
Critics blasted his remarks, pointing out that the national stockpile is meant to help states fill their supplies when they run out in an emergency.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) tweeted in response, "The federal stockpile is reserved for all Americans living in our states, not just federal employees. Get it?"
Further prompting questions, the administration changed the definition of the Strategic National Stockpile on its website on Friday in a way that more closely matched Kushner's description.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said it began updating the language one week ago - before Kushner made the remarks - to more clearly explain the definition of the stockpile.
Trump was repeatedly pressed on Kushner's statement during the briefing, insisting that Kushner didn't misspeak and that asserting the federal government needs to keep some supplies in the stockpile to use at the time when COVID-19 cases peak.
"We want the flexibility," Trump said. "Because we don't even know when the surge is coming."