Citing words from an influential businessman, Trump suggested on Sunday afternoon that the poor response to coronavirus in the United States wasn’t his administration’s fault, but that of Congress’.
“Great businessman & philanthropist Bernie Marcus, Co-Founder of Home Depot, said that Congress was too distracted by the (phony) Impeachment Witch Hunt when they should have been investigating CoronaVirus when it first appeared in China,” Trump wrote in a tweet. “Media played a big roll [sic] also!”
Trump’s criticism matched what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a radio interview in late March. Coronavirus “came up while we were tied down in the impeachment trial,” he claimed then. “And I think it diverted the attention of the government because everything every day was all about impeachment.”
Great businessman & philanthropist Bernie Marcus, Co-Founder of Home Depot, said that Congress was too distracted by the (phony) Impeachment Witch Hunt when they should have been investigating CoronaVirus when it first appeared in China. Media played a big roll also!@dcexaminer
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2020
That argument, however, goes against the known timeline of how things came about — and seems to hint, perhaps, that the president cannot handle more than one issue at a time.
Democrats in Congress were, in fact, increasingly discussing the issue after the Senate impeachment trial ended — which was on February 5. For the entire month of February, Trump downplayed the importance of listening to health experts’ warnings on coronavirus.
By the end of that month, criticisms from the media and from Democrats over his failure to take the issue seriously were being described by the president as “their new hoax” against him.
Beyond suggesting impeachment distracted Congress from the gravity of the situation, the White House itself was reportedly warned several times since November about the possibility of the virus possibly hurting U.S. interests. Trump even received a Presidential Daily Briefing about COVID-19 in January.
Democrats in Congress have been pressing Trump to request emergency coronavirus funds since the beginning of February. He thinks it isn’t necessary. Remember the Ebola outbreak? Obama requested $6 billion in funding immediately. But he was a PRESIDENT.🙄https://t.co/gOqz0M8flY
— Ladywolf (@NorskLadyWolf) February 23, 2020
Suggesting that Democrats were distracted by coronavirus during impeachment also ignores one key detail: before the trial of Trump was even over, several Democratic lawmakers in Congress were already calling for emergency funding to deal with the potential of a pandemic that appeared to be inevitably heading to the U.S.
“We strongly urge the Administration to transmit a request to Congress for emergency supplemental appropriations to respond to this public health emergency,” Democrats wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, adding that the request from Trump should appear alongside his “submittal of the fiscal year 2021” presidential budget proposal.
That proposal from the White House, it should be noted, sought budget cuts of $25 million from the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response. It also sought to cut $18 million from the Hospital Preparedness Program.
Chris Walker is a freelance journalist based in Madison, Wisconsin, who focuses on news, politics, and analysis of world events. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, since 2005 Chris has reported on workers’ rights protests in Wisconsin, opined on four separate presidential elections and written on a number of other political subjects for a variety of national online publications.