Trump defends testing capabilities, blasts critics during WH briefing

 

President TrumpDonald TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions The Memo: Left pins hopes on Nina Turner in Ohio after recent defeats Biden administration to keep Trump-era rule of turning away migrants during pandemic MORE on Saturday offered a fiery defense of his response to the novel coronavirus and the nation’s testing capabilities as the administration faces growing pressure to ramp up testing.

In a lengthy briefing that covered various topics, Trump attempted to cast the United States’s response to the virus as far better than those of other nations in Europe and elsewhere.

Trump lashed out at Democratic criticism of his response to COVID-19 while hammering the previous administration of former President Obama, a Democrat, for leaving a bare “cupboard” of medical supplies for him to pull from.

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“We have tremendous testing capacity,” Trump said during the briefing, which lasted just over an hour. “Unfortunately, some partisan voices are trying to politicize the issue of testing.”

Trump suggested it wasn’t right for critics to scrutinize his administration’s work on testing for COVID-19, which broke out in China at the end of 2019, because he inherited “broken junk” from the prior administration.

State leaders such as New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions Investigators grilled Cuomo for 11 hours in sexual harassment investigation New York state teacher's union opposes staff vaccine mandates MORE (D) have demanded more action from the federal government to expand testing nationwide as states look to loosen restrictions meant to curb the spread of the virus. Trump has broadly insisted it is the states' responsibility to ramp up their own testing.

Trump's remarks at the briefing represented a growing effort by his administration to assure states that U.S. testing capabilities are sufficient for them to begin moving to the first phase of the White House guidelines for reopening, which were released on Thursday evening.

“As our experts said yesterday, America’s testing capability and capacity is fully sufficient to begin opening up the country totally,” Trump said Saturday, echoing remarks from Vice President Pence a day prior. “Indeed, our system is by far the most robust and advanced in anywhere in the world by far.”  

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“As we approach, hopefully, the downward side of what’s going on, I think you are going to see some incredible hard facts that what we did was right,” Trump continued. 

The president has faced scrutiny in the media for downplaying the threat from the virus early on in the outbreak, and his administration has been faulted for delays in testing that experts say hampered the overall response to the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.

Trump has made a habit of lashing out at media coverage, doing so Saturday by mentioning New York Times reporter Maggie HabermanMaggie Lindsy HabermanThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Officers give grueling, horrific accounts of Jan. 6 Biden vs. Trump is a compelling contrast for Democrats Schumer bemoans number of Republicans who believe Trump will be reinstated: 'A glaring warning' MORE for a recent story about his newly tapped chief of staff, Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsMeadows says Trump World looking to 'move forward in a real way' Trump takes two punches from GOP Watchdog urges Justice to probe Trump, Meadows for attempting to 'weaponize' DOJ MORE

The president also began the briefing by comparing the U.S. mortality rate per capita to those of other nations, noting that the rate in the U.S. was much lower than the rate in most other countries that have also grappled with the coronavirus. 

Deborah BirxDeborah BirxFauci and Birx warned Scott Atlas was 'dangerous' Ex-Biden adviser says Birx told him she hoped election turned out 'a certain way' Tulane adds Hunter Biden as guest speaker on media polarization MORE, who is coordinating the federal government’s response to the virus, at one point displayed a chart that showed deaths per 100,000 people in the U.S. and other countries. The U.S. rate was below nations such as Belgium, Spain, Italy, France, and the Netherlands and was above only Iran, Germany and China.

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“Does anybody really believe that number?” Trump interjected at one point, pointing to the figure reported by Iran.

“Does anybody really believe this number?” the president asked, referring to the rate reported by China, which stood at the bottom of the chart.

Reports emerged this month that U.S. intelligence believes Beijing underestimated the number of cases in the country.

Trump also continued to defend protests against stay-at-home orders in states such as Virginia and Michigan when asked about recent comments by Stephen MooreStephen MooreWant to improve vaccine rates? Ask for this endorsement IRS controversies of the present, past haunt lawmaker talks Conservatives say bipartisan infrastructure deal shouldn't include IRS funding MORE, an economist advising the White House on reopening the economy who is helping organize a protest of the stay-at-home order in Wisconsin.

“There is a lot of injustice. When you look at Virginia, where they want to take your guns away, they want to violate your second amendment,” Trump said. “I am getting along very nicely with the governor of Michigan, but she has things — don’t buy paint, don’t buy roses, don’t buy — she’s got all these crazy things.” 

“I just think some of the governors have gotten carried away,” Trump later added. The president also insisted it was an appropriate time to bring up the Second Amendment in Virginia when asked if linking it to the coronavirus restrictions could cause civil unrest.

“I would say liberate Virginia when that kind of thing happens,” Trump said, referring to recent gun control measures signed into law by Virginia's Democratic governor. “I think it’s a very good analogy.”

Updated 7:44 p.m.