Schumer names coronavirus czar candidates in plea to White House

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) offered candidates for a potential czar to oversee the production and disbursement of medical equipment during a call to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Sunday night, a person familiar with the call confirmed to The Hill.  

Schumer repeated his request to Meadows to have President Trump fully invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) as he suggested names for a military official he thought could be appointed to oversee the production and distribution of medical supplies and equipment that states across the country have asked the federal government for aid in acquiring. 

Schumer has spoken to President Trump, Vice President Pence and Meadows about his plea for the DPA and a czar to oversee it last week, but Sunday’s call with Meadows was the first time Schumer suggested specific names, according to the person familiar with the call. 

Among potential candidates, Schumer named Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under former President Obama and Trump; Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, a Navy veteran who was the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs and ran the U.S. Northern Command; and Vice Adm. Mark Harnitchek, who ran the Defense Logistics Agency.

Schumer’s call was first reported by Politico

Hogan Gidley, a spokesman for the White House, said he would not comment on the “specifics of private conversations,” when asked about Schumer’s Sunday night call with Meadows. 

“During this COVID-19 crisis, Chief of Staff Meadows has had several phone calls and discussions with many members [of] Congress including Senator Schumer, but we don’t comment on the specifics of private conversations,” Gidley said in a statement. 

Schumer’s call to Meadows follows the senator’s public feuding with Trump last week over the Democrat’s call for the administration to take further action in its response to the coronavirus pandemic by fully invoking the DPA and appointing an official as a czar. 

After Schumer sent a letter asking Trump to name a military official as a czar to oversee the production and distribution of the equipment, Trump sent a letter back calling Schumer a “bad senator.” 

Schumer said that he was “appalled” by Trump’s letter, and said he had sent his own “with the best of intentions.” 

Governors in states hardest hit by the coronavirus, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), have been calling on Trump for weeks to fully invoke the DPA to produce equipment such as ventilators that hospitals need to treat coronavirus patients. 

Trump has invoked the measure in part, but not to its fullest extent as requested by some lawmakers in response to the pandemic.

Tags Andrew Cuomo Chuck Schumer Coronavirus Defense Production Act Donald Trump Mark Meadows

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