Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer advised President Donald Trump to appoint a military czar to handle the manufacturing and distribution of supplies to combat the coronavirus, arguing the current White House team isn’t up for the challenge.
Schumer called out by name White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who’s in charge of manufacturing, and Rear Admiral John Polowczyk, who’s in charge of distribution, as not being up for their jobs.
‘There is one person right now – Mr Navarro – who is supposedly in charge of production and there’s another person right now – an admiral who is nominally response for distribution,’ Schumer said Friday on a call with reporters.
‘I just want to reiterate my call for the president to appoint a new czar – a senior military expert who has the expertise to be in charge of both manufacturing and distribution,’ he noted.
Chuck Schumer advised President Trump to appoint a military czar to handle the manufacturing and distribution of medical supplies
President Trump has tried to paint the lack of medical supplies as a state problem and not a federal issue
Schumer said he’s spoken to President Trump about half a dozen in times in the past few weeks – including again on Thursday night – about the issue.
‘He said he would look at it. He listened,’ he said of his conversation with the president.
Schumer has been vocal in his concerns about the medical supply problem. Health officials and other workers on the front lines have complained about the lack of personal protective gear, ventilators, face masks and other equipment they need to fight the virus.
‘There’s a dramatic shortage of all the needed supplies or most of them, whether it’s masks, whether it’s PPE [personal protective equipment] … whether it’s ventilators. And we have no one really in charge,’ he told CNN Wednesday night. ‘We have this awful spectacle of governors bidding against one another.’
The Trump administration has pushed back against the criticism from governors, lawmakers and other officials about the lack of supplies, trying to present it as a state problem instead of a federal one while, at the same time, bragging about all the supplies they are purchasing.
Polowczyk said at Thursday’s daily White House briefing that six cargo planes carrying supplies from overseas have landed another 28 will arrive in coming weeks.
Polowczyk, who is director of fleet ordnance and supply at the U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., said that bringing in supplies by air was much faster than by ship.
‘It normally takes approximately 37 days to get from overseas the product, load it, get it to the United States, and distribute it,’ he said. ‘So to prime the pump so to speak, we have linked on an air bridge to get product here faster.’
In addition to Polowczyk’s distribution work, Trump tapped Navarro to coordinate the administration’s use of the Defense Production Act, which grants the president the ability to direct industries to produce essential supplies.
Schumer said Navarro, an economist, wasn’t up for the job.
‘I talked to him — he is not up to the job. He is a very nice man but he has no experience doing things like this,’ the New York Democrat told CNN. ‘And they have no one that I can best tell in charge of the distribution.’
In a letter to President Trump earlier this week, Schumer said Americans can’t rely on the current ‘patchwork’ effort to get the supplies needed.
‘America cannot rely on a patchwork of uncoordinated voluntary efforts to combat the awful magnitude of this pandemic,’ he wrote. ‘It is long past the time for your Administration to designate a senior military officer to fix this urgent problem.’
President Trump appointed trade adviser Peter Navarro to be in charge of manufacturing
President Trump appointed Rear Admiral John Polowczyk to lead the distribution
Trump originally snapped at Schumer’s suggestion, tweeting to him on Thursday that there was a military man in charge: Polowczyk.
‘Somebody please explain to Cryin’ Chuck Schumer that we do have a military man in charge of distributing goods, a very talented, Admiral, in fact,’ Trump tweeted Thursday morning. ‘New York has gotten far more than any other State, including hospitals & a hospital chip, but no matter what always complaining.
‘It wouldn’t matter if you got ten times what was needed, it would never be good enough. Unlike other states, New York unfortunately got off to a late start. You should have pushed harder. Stop complaining & find out where all of these supplies are going. Cuomo working hard!’
The tweets continued Trump’s attempt to shift responsibility for the handling of the crisis to states, and paint the federal government as a rescue service.
It also hinted at his repeated claim that vital medical equipment is ‘going out the back door’ of New York hospitals, which has been dismissed by state and city authorities.
In New York Andrew Cuomo, the governor, was asked to square Trump’s attack on Schumer with praise for him. ‘I don’t know if you can square those two statements,’ he said at his daily press briefing.
Then he added – apparently sarcastically: ‘I think him for his good words that he thinks I am doing a good job.’
Schumer has been doing the media rounds arguing that Trump needs to put a military commander in charge of manufacturing and distributing much needed medical supplies under the Defense Production Act
Schumer also laid out his point in a Thursday evening tweet, noting that Trump’s presidential appointees ‘are not up to the job’
But Trump’s tweets were also in response to Schumer doing the media rounds – and also making the point on Twitter – that Trump need to appoint a military man for the job.
‘His presidential appointees are not up to the job,’ Schumer argued in a Wednesday night tweet.
Schumer is not the only Democrat complaining about the work of Trump’s team in responding to the virus.
Democratic Congresswoman Kathleen Rice of New York, a former federal prosecutor, called on White House senior adviser Jared Kushner to ‘resign or be fired immediately,’ arguing his inexperience poses ‘a direct threat to American lives.’
Kushner has been running a ‘shadow’ coronavirus task force, which has brought in private sector officials to augment the government response.
‘Since day 1 we’ve known that Jared Kushner was nothing more than a product of nepotism. Entirely inexperienced, unqualified and ill-informed for the position he held. But during this crisis, he poses a direct threat to American lives. He needs to resign or be fired immediately,’ she wrote on Twitter.
Kushner, in a rare appearance in the White House briefing room on Thursday, talked about his work responding to the coronavirus, which has infected more than 245,000 Americans and killed more than 6,000.
He specifically talked about getting surgical masks to New York, saying he was made aware of the problem by the president, who got a call from a friend of his in the state to complain about the lack of protective gear.
‘Got a call from the president, he told me he was hearing from friends of his in New York that the New York public hospital system was running low on critical supplies,’ Kushner said.
He described making a series of calls to officials and said the result was the administration would ‘send a month of supply.’
‘We’ll be doing similar things with all the different public hospitals that are in the hot spot zones,’ he said.
Democratic Congresswoman Kathleen Rice of New York, a former federal prosecutor, called on White House senior adviser Jared Kushner to ‘resign or be fired immediately,’ arguing his inexperience poses ‘a direct threat to American lives’
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner made a rare appearance in the briefing room amid reports about his expanded role in handling the coronavirus
He then proceeded to lecture governors – many of whom have been begging the federal government for medical equipment as they struggle to respond to the pandemic amid dwindling supplies – on how to be ‘good managers.’
‘You have to take inventory in your state, and you have to be able to prove that there’s a real need,’ he said of the requests for they were getting for ventilators, marks and other protective gear for workers on the front line, who are at high risk of contracting the contagious disease.
He said that governors should know ‘the number of how many ventilators they have in their state because that’s the first thing a good manager will do.’
‘What a lot of the voters are seeing now is that when you would like somebody to be a mayor or governor or president, you’re trying to think about who will be a competent manager during the time of crisis. This is a time of crisis, and you’re seeing certain people are better managers than others,’ he added.