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March 28, 2020, 6:50 p.m. EDT

Trump laments not receiving plaudits from governors: ‘I want them to be appreciative’

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By Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — After days of desperate pleas from the nation’s governors, President Donald Trump took a round of steps to expand the federal government’s role in helping produce critically needed supplies to fight the coronavirus pandemic even as he warned the leaders of hard-hit states not to cross him.

“I want them to be appreciative,” Trump said Friday after the White House announced that he would be using the powers granted to him under the Korean War–era Defense Production Act to try to compel auto giant General Motors /zigman2/quotes/205226835/composite GM +0.70%  to produce ventilators.

See: Governors in pursuit of federal help to fight coronavirus find they must also negotiate Trump’s preference for flattery

And: Governors reject Trump’s timeline to reopen economy; ‘Job one has to be save lives,’ Cuomo says

Yet Trump — who hours earlier had suggested the need for the devices was being overblown — rejected any criticism of the federal government’s response to a ballooning public health crisis that a month ago he predicted would be over by now.


Associated Press
President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Friday.

“We have done a hell of a job,” Trump said, as he sent an ominous message to state and local leaders who have been urging the federal government to do more to help them save lives.

Trump said he had instructed Vice President Mike Pence not to call the governors of Washington or Michigan — two coronavirus hotspots — because of their public criticism. “If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” Trump said.

The comments came after Trump unveiled a slew of executive actions to bolster states’ capacities to respond to the pandemic, including authorizing Defense Secretary Mark Esper to call up an unspecified number of federal reservists to help with the coronavirus response.

Friday’s invocation “should demonstrate clearly to all that we will not hesitate to use the full authority of the federal government to combat this crisis,” Trump said.

Trump had been saying for more than a week that he was reluctant to use the Defense Production Act — even after he invoked it — because companies were already doing what he wanted and he didn’t need arm-twisting to make them comply.

Yet Trump continued to suggest that states’ own failures were to blame for the needed intervention. “Normally these would be bought for states, just so you understand,” he said.

The nation’s governors have been exerting growing pressure on the president to do more to bolster supplies, despite the perceived risks of speaking out. From New York to Washington, they have pleaded with him to use the DPA to force companies to manufacture critical equipment. And they have begged for help in obtaining supplies like masks and testing agents, saying that states have been forced to compete against one another as well as the federal government on the open market, driving up prices, even as federal officials have pledged their help if states fail.

The notoriously thin-skinned Trump has not taken well to their criticism. Instead, he has lashed out at the governors, continued to diminish the risk posed by the virus and insisted that the federal government was only a “backup” as he looked to avoid political costs from a pandemic that has reshaped his presidency and tested his re-election plans.

Read: Trump wants his signature to appear on coronavirus stimulus checks

In a Thursday night interview on Fox News with Sean Hannity, Trump declared that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee “should be doing more” and “shouldn’t be relying on the federal government.” He dismissed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s requests for additional ventilators to keep patients alive, saying, “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000” of the devices, which force air into the lungs of those too sick to breathe. And he said he was still weighing Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s request for a disaster declaration, saying, “We’ve had a big problem with the young, a woman governor from, you know who I’m talking about, from Michigan.”

“You know,” he added from the White House, “we don’t like to see the complaints.”

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