House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sharpened her criticism of President Trump’s early dismissal of the coronavirus, saying the delay cost American lives.
“His denial at the beginning was deadly,” said Pelosi to open her interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“His delaying of getting equipment — it continues — his delaying of getting equipment to where it is needed is deadly, and now I think the best thing is to prevent more loss of life rather than open things up because we just don’t know. We have to have testing, testing, testing — that’s what we said from the start before we can evaluate the nature of it in some of these other regions as well.”
Later in the interview, Pelosi said: “As the president fiddles, people are dying.”
Trump has repeatedly attacked certain Democratic governors, including Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Jay Inslee of Washington, calling them ineffective and issuing insults. On Friday, Trump said at a White House briefing that he wanted governors to be “appreciative” of the federal response. “They don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” he said.
“Are you saying his downplaying ultimately cost American lives?” Tapper asked Pelosi.
“Yes, I am. I’m saying that,” said Pelosi. “The other day when he was signing the bill, he said, ‘Just think, 20 days ago everything was great.’ No, everything wasn’t great; we had nearly 500 cases and 17 deaths already, and in that 20 days because we weren’t prepared, we now have 2,000 deaths and 100,000 cases.”
“So again, we really want to work in a unifying way to get the job done here, but we cannot continue to allow him to continue to make these underestimates of what is actually happening here,” continued Pelosi. “This is such a tragedy, and we don’t even know the magnitude of it because we don’t even have the adequate testing.”
While Trump has claimed recently he always took the virus seriously, he spent the end of January, all of February and early March downplaying the threat while the federal government was slow to mobilize a response.
“We have it totally under control,” he said on Jan. 22, adding, “It’s one person coming in from China. We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”
“Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away,” Trump said at a Feb. 10 rally in New Hampshire.
On Feb. 26, Trump said at a coronavirus briefing, “When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”
As of Sunday morning, there were more than 120,000 reported cases in the United States, the most of any nation, along with over 2,100 deaths. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday morning that the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the country could reach up to 200,000.
Trump said last week he hoped to open the country up by the April 12 Easter holiday, which goes against the recommendations of experts on the disease who have recommended social distancing as the best way to slow its growth and allow hospital systems a chance to respond.
“I don’t know what the scientists are saying to him,” Pelosi said Sunday. “When did the president know about this and what did he know? What did he know and when did he know it? That’s for an after-action review.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, criticized Pelosi’s comments during an interview on Fox News later Sunday morning.
“She’s blaming the president of the United States for people dying,” said Graham. “That’s the most shameful, disgusting statement by any politician in modern history.”
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