Acting Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf on Tuesday stumbled over questioning from GOP Sen. John Kennedy about the Trump administration's coronavirus response.
Wolf struggled to offer Kennedy clear numbers on the expected spread of the virus, among other topics.
"You're supposed to keep us safe. And the American people deserve some straight answers on the coronavirus — and I'm not getting them from you," Kennedy said to Wolf.
Chad Wolf, the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, on Tuesday morning stumbled over basic questions from GOP Sen. John Kennedy on how the Trump administration is responding to coronavirus.
The Louisiana Republican excoriated Wolf as he deferred to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on questions ranging from how far the US government was to developing a vaccine for the virus to how many people are predicted to become infected.
"You're supposed to keep us safe. And the American people deserve some straight answers on the coronavirus — and I'm not getting them from you," Kennedy said to Wolf during the tense exchange before a Senate appropriations subcommittee.
Wolf replied, "I disagree."
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"We do anticipate the number will grow. I don't have an exact figure for you, though," Wolf said when asked about the potential spread of the virus in the US.
As Wolf struggled to provide a clear answer, Kennedy eventually went on to say, "Don't you think you ought to check on that, as the head of Homeland Security?"
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday urged Americans to prepare for a coronavirus crisis in the US. The CDC said the number of cases in the US had risen to 57 as of Tuesday, per CNN.
"It's not so much a question of if this will happen any more, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, said during a media briefing.
Wolf, like many other Cabinet-level officials in the Trump administration, has been serving as the head of a massive government agency in an acting capacity (without Senate confirmation) for months.
The Trump administration has set up a coronavirus task force, which is being spearheaded by HHS Secretary Alex Azar and national security adviser Robert C. O'Brien, to coordinate the US government's handling of the virus.
But President Donald Trump is facing bipartisan criticism over his administration's response to coronavirus as it's spread out of China and into other countries across the globe, from Iran to Italy, which has rocked financial markets.
Trump on Monday requested $2.5 billion from Congress to address coronavirus, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said was "long overdue and completely inadequate to the scale of this emergency."
Meanwhile, Trump has also faced criticism from congressional lawmakers over his prior decisions to scrap the global health security units on the National Security Council and at Homeland Security, which Democratic lawmakers have said puts the US at a disadvantage in facing this virus.