McConnell admits he was "wrong" to claim Obama had no pandemic plan

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged Thursday that he was "wrong" to claim former President Barack Obama didn't leave behind a plan for tackling a pandemic. The Obama administration had in fact prepared a 69-page playbook for pandemic response — which the Trump administration appeared to not follow.

"I was wrong," McConnell said in an interview with Fox News' Bret Baier. "They did leave behind a plan. So, I clearly made a mistake in that regard."

McConnell also said he didn't know whether the Trump administration was following the guidance prepared by the president's predecessor.

"As to whether or not the plan was followed and who is the critic and all the rest, I don't have any observation about that because I don't know enough about the details of that, Bret, to comment on it in any detail," the Kentucky Republican said.

At a virtual campaign event for Mr. Trump on Monday, McConnell blamed the Obama administration for not taking steps to be ready for a potential pandemic.

"We want to be early, ready for the next one, because clearly the Obama administration did not leave to this administration any kind of game plan for something like this," McConnell told Lara Trump, the president's daughter-in-law. "

McConnell also said it was "classless" for Obama to criticize Mr. Trump's handling of the crisis, and said the former president "should have kept his mouth shut." Mr. Obama said in a private call to supporters last week that the Trump administration's response has been "an absolute chaotic disaster."

"You had your shot. You were there for eight years," McConnell said. "I think the tradition that the Bushes set up — of not critiquing the president who comes after you — is a good tradition."

The Obama administration did in fact pass along a comprehensive pandemic plan, including a 69-page playbook for an early response to infectious diseases. Politico reported on the playbook in March and noted that the Trump administration lagged or did not follow through on many of its steps.

I've had people tweet at me in the past 24 hours: Did the pandemic playbook really exist? Was it really a clearly marked "playbook"? Would it have helped? Here's the cover, and the table of contents. You decide.

— Ronald Klain (@RonaldKlain) May 12, 2020

The playbook included recommendations for a "unified message" from a "single federal spokesperson," and for invoking the Defense Production Act, which Mr. Trump hesitated to use in the early weeks of the pandemic.

Mr. Trump also disbanded the National Security Council's pandemic response unit and sought funding cuts for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before the coronavirus landed in the United States.

Mr. Trump has consistently blamed Mr. Obama for difficulties during the pandemic response, alleging that the previous administration didn't leave a sufficient stockpile or a plan for a pandemic on the scale of the coronavirus.

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