WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Tuesday accused Democrats of wanting his administration to fail in its response to the coronavirus pandemic, fanning U.S. partisan debate without providing evidence to support his assertion.
U.S. President Donald Trump Trump talks to reporters prior to boarding Air Force One as he departs Washington for travel to Arizona at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., May 5, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
Before heading out to visit an Arizona mask-making factory, Trump was asked by a White House reporter why he would allow top health official Anthony Fauci testify to a committee of the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate but not the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.
“Because the House is a set up. The House is a bunch of Trump haters,” the Republican president answered. “They, frankly, want our situation to be unsuccessful, which means death, which means death, and our situation is going to be very successful.”
Trump, who is seeking re-election in November, also said that Democrats “want us to fail so they can win an election, which they’re not going to win.”
Arizona, a battleground state that could decide the election’s outcome, is one of dozens of U.S. states partially lifting its shutdown of social and business life imposed to stem the coronavirus pandemic.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Phoenix, Arizona, two weeks ago calling for Republican Governor Doug Ducey to ease restrictions in the state. Many of the protesters waved American flags and wore hats and shirts in support of Trump.
On Monday, the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) forecast that COVID-19 deaths in the United States could reach about 135,000 by early August as social-distancing measures are relaxed, double the model’s previous forecast.
The novel coronavirus already is known to have infected almost 1.2 million people in the United States, including at least 70,000 who have died from COVID-19, the respiratory illness it causes, according to a Reuters tally.
The U.S. death toll is the highest in the world. Democratic politicians and some Republicans have criticized Trump for playing down the threat of the virus.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat whose state is the hardest hit by the coronavirus, on Tuesday again pressed lawmakers in Washington to abandon partisan politics, singling out Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who has resisted giving more funding to states and cities.
“This is counterproductive and it will lead to defeat for all of us,” Cuomo said at his daily news briefing. “A national health crisis that is killing tens of thousands of Americans is a time to put politics aside.”
“If we can’t get past this now, when can we ever get past it?” asked Cuomo.
Trump said in an interview with the New York Post on Monday that it would be unfair to Republicans if Congress passed coronavirus “bailouts” for states, singling out Democratic-run New York, California and Illinois, as ones he believes are badly managed and would benefit from such aid.
The three are home to the most populous U.S. cities of New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.
“It’s not fair to the Republicans because all the states that need help -they’re run by Democrats in every case. Florida is doing phenomenal, Texas is doing phenomenal, the Midwest is, you know, fantastic – very little debt,” Trump was quoted by the newspaper as saying.
Cuomo urged Trump to provide financial assistance to states. He said the health crisis had left a $13 billion gap in his state’s budget. The financial aid would help states fund their reopening plans, Cuomo said.
“I wasn’t asking for anything from the federal government before the coronavirus,” he said. “We need financial help in restarting the economy.”
Cuomo, commenting on the notion that states led by Democratic governors have been mismanaged, said “if anything,” the federal government is responsible for mismanagement.
In Arizona, Trump will visit a Honeywell International Inc (HON.N) aerospace facility in Phoenix that is making protective face masks. Before leaving the White House, Trump, who has declined to wear a mask despite White House guidelines urging people to do so, suggested he could this time.
Vice President Mike Pence was criticized for not wearing a face mask when visiting patients at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic last month, and he apologized for it during a television interview on Sunday.
Trump has sought to give an optimistic view about the country’s recovery from the virus and is eager for states to reopen businesses whose closings have driven down the economy and left millions unemployed.
Under the White House reopening guidelines, states need to show downward trajectories in cases as a percent of total tests over 14 days.
Asked about states re-opening without meeting those guidelines, Trump said: “I respect the governors, and I’ve given them great discretion. If, however, I see somebody doing something that’s egregious or wrong, I will stop it in two seconds.”
The White House is discussing when to wind down its coronavirus task force and is looking at the possibility of moving coordination to federal agencies near the end of May, Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday.
White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett on Tuesday said he expected another jump in the unemployment rate the U.S. government will report on Friday.
“My guess right now is it’s going to be north of 16%, maybe as high as 20%,” Hassett told CNN. “So we are looking at probably the worst unemployment rate since the Great Depression. It’s a tremendous negative shock, a very, very terrible shock.”
Reporting by Susan Heavey, Jeff Mason and Steve Holland in Washington, Nathan Layne in Connecticut, Brendan O’Brien in Chicago, Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas, Rajesh Kumar Singh; writing by Grant McCool; editing by Frank McGurty and Howard Goller