Trump defends testing capabilities, blasts critics during WH briefing

 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden leads Trump by 36 points nationally among Latinos: poll Trump dismisses climate change role in fires, says Newsom needs to manage forest better Jimmy Kimmel hits Trump for rallies while hosting Emmy Awards 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 CuomoNYT editorial board remembers Ginsburg: She 'will forever have two legacies' New York to honor Ginsburg with statue in Brooklyn New York City bus driver knocked out by passenger he told to wear a mask 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 HabermanBiden, Pence cross paths at NYC 9/11 ceremony The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump floats 0M+ in personal spending for reelection bid The Hill's 12:30 Report: Washington reacts to scathing Trump military story MORE for a recent story about his newly tapped chief of staff, Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsAirline CEOs plead with Washington as layoffs loom Trump reacts to Ginsburg's death: 'An amazing woman who led an amazing life' Trump carries on with rally, unaware of Ginsburg's death 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 BirxControversial CDC guidelines were written by HHS officials, not scientists: report Trump coronavirus adviser threatens to sue Stanford researchers Trump disputes CDC director on vaccine timing, says 'he made a mistake' 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 MooreTrump economist touts nation's low poverty rate Sunday shows - Trump team defends coronavirus response Economist Moore calls on Pelosi, Schumer to 'get a deal done' amid stimulus stalemate 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.