Barack Obama has delivered a scathing rebuke of Mr Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying the country was “so screwed up” and that those in power “aren’t even pretending to be in charge”.
In a rare attack on his successor, but without mentioning anyone by name, Mr Obama strongly criticised the president’s handling of the crisis in two online commencement addresses delivered on Saturday.
“More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing,” he said in his first address, directed at graduates of historically black colleges and universities. “A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”
The White House has repeatedly blamed Mr Obama for failing to prepare the country for the pandemic, and Mr Trump’s long-bubbling animosity towards his predecessor has increased in recent weeks, with the president calling on Congress to compel Mr Obama to testify about allegations of spying on his election campaign.
On Thursday Mr Trump tweeted that Mr Obama should be asked about “the biggest political crime and scandal in the history of the USA.” He added: “He knew EVERYTHING,” and tweeted that people should be sent to prison for their role in what he calls “Obamagate”.
Saturday marked the first time that the former president has responded to the criticism.
The Show Me Your Walk event, streamed online and hosted by comedian Kevin Hart, was directed at 27,000 students at 78 participating universities and colleges.
He urged the students to use their talents, and to vote in November, pointing out that the pandemic had exposed the inequality still prevalent in US society.
"A disease like this just spotlights the underlying inequalities and extra burdens that black communities have historically had to deal with in this country,” he said. “We see it in the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on our communities.”
“Injustice like this isn’t new,” he said.
“What is new is that so much of your generation has woken up to the fact that the status quo needs fixing, that the old ways of doing things don’t work, that it doesn’t matter how much money you make if everybody around you is hungry and sick.
"No generation has been better positioned to be warriors for justice and remake the world.”
The second speech, delivered a few hours later and broadcast across all major television networks, was organised by basketball player LeBron James. Entitled “Graduate Together”, it featured performances by stars including Alicia Keys, the Jonas Brothers and Pharrell Williams.
Mr Obama called out "so-called grown-ups" for mishandling the pandemic.
“Doing what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy — that’s how little kids think,” he said. “Unfortunately, a lot of so-called grown-ups, including some with fancy titles and important jobs, still think that way — which is why things are so screwed up.
“I hope that instead, you decide to ground yourself in values that last, like honesty, hard work, responsibility, fairness, generosity, respect for others.”
On Sunday, Mr Trump told reporters outside the White House that Mr Obama was "grossly incompetent".
“Look, he was an incompetent president, that’s all I can say. Grossly incompetent,” said Mr Trump.
Peter Navarro, Mr Trump's trade advisor, laughed off Mr Obama’s remarks, appearing on Fox News on Sunday and declaring: "Eight years of Obama and Biden was a kumbaya on incompetence.”
He continued: “This was the guy who, on his watch, saw over 50,000 factories disappear to China. Didn't mention that in his speech. To the American workers it was always 'let them eat arugula.' Donald J Trump got half a million manufacturing jobs back.”
He belittled the former president, describing him as being “Joe Biden’s press secretary”.
"I'm surprised that we didn't hear about China,” he said. “China unleashed this epidemic. Do you think the Obama/Biden administration could have stood up a ventilator factory in 17 days? Do you think the Obama/Biden administration could have built two factories making N95 masks in five weeks instead of the usual nine months? I don't think so."
Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, said in an emailed response that: "President Trump's unprecedented coronavirus response has saved lives."
Mr Trump also used a Fox News interview to accuse Mr Obama once again of spying on his 2016 election campaign, and to once again exonerate his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
In the three years since he left office, Mr Obama has largely avoided stepping into the political arena.
However, with the ascension of his former vice president, Joe Biden, to lead the Democratic charge in November, Mr Obama is gearing up for a return to the political fray.
On May 9 Mr Obama privately criticised the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus crisis as "an absolute chaotic disaster" during a phone call with former staff members.
That private conversation led Mitch McConnell, leader of the Senate Republicans, to say that the former president “should have kept his mouth shut.”