Donald Trump is facing mounting backlash over the way he and his administration have handled the coronavirus pandemic. The president has been accused of downplaying the severity of the deadly disease, as well as refusing to take responsibility for the government's incompetent response.
Among the the biggest criticisms Trump has faced in recent weeks stems from the 2018 dismantling of the National Security Council's pandemic response unit. The team was formed under the Obama administration in wake of the 2014-2016 ebola outbreak in the U.S. The unit was tasked with leading the country's preparation for a global pandemic like the coronavirus. Trump was asked about the disbandment of the pandemic response team during a press conference last week. He insisted he was unaware of the 2018 decision and was, therefore, free of blame.
"You said that you don't take responsibility, but you did disbanded the White House pandemic response office ..." PBS' Yamiche Alcindor asked during the press conference. "So what responsibility do you take to that? And the officials that worked in that office said the White House lost valuable time because that office was disbanded. What do you think of that?"
"I just think it's a nasty question ... And when you say 'me,' I didn't do it," Trump predictably responded. "We have a group of people ... I don't know anything about it. You say we did that—I don't know anything about it ... It's the administration, perhaps they do that. You know, people let people go ... things like that happen."
So the president claimed he didn't know anything about the disbandment of the pandemic response unit; however, his comments during a February press conference suggest otherwise.
While addressing his administration's response to the COVID-19 outbreak, POTUS was asked about his calls to cut spending for the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the World Health Organization.
"You’ve talked a lot today about how these professionals are excellent, have been critical and necessary," a reporter told Trump. "Does this experience at all give you pause about those consistent cuts?"
"No. We can get money, we can increase staff—we know all the people ... " the president said. "Some of the people we cut, they haven’t used for many, many years, and if we have ever need them we can get them very quickly. And rather than spending the money—I’m a business person. I don’t like having thousands of people around when you don’t need them. When we need them, we can get them back very quickly."