As he increasingly tries to shovel blame for the shortage of medical supplies onto the governors of states with densely populated areas that are suffering the most from the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump was asked on Friday what more he wants them to do. It was, he said, “very simple: I want them to be appreciative.”
Trump contrasted those two Democratic
governors, who have been blunt about the federal government’s failings,
with two others who have appealed to the president’s vanity in an
attempt to get his help. Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, has
been “appreciative,” Trump said. Gavin Newsom, the governor of
California, had also spoken well of him, Trump noted. “I appreciate his
nice words,” the president said. “I really appreciate it.”
Trump’s choice of those two governors was probably not coincidental. Earlier on Friday, his reelection campaign unveiled a schmaltzy new ad
— entitled, of all things, “Hope” — that cast his response to the
pandemic in heroic terms, and featured video of both governors praising
While Trump approved Newsom’s request to
declare the coronavirus outbreak in California a major disaster within
hours of the governor asking on Sunday, freeing federal funds, the
president failed to respond to a similar request from Whitmer on
Thursday. Instead, he belittled her in an interview with Sean Hannity on
Fox News Thursday night. “We’ve had a big problem with the young, a
woman governor from — you know who I’m talking about — from Michigan,” Trump told Hannity. “She is a new governor and it’s not been pleasant.”
“She doesn’t get it done, and we send her a lot,” Trump complained. “Now she wants a declaration of emergency and, you know, we’ll have to make a decision on that,” Trump said.
Whitmer responded to Trump appearing to not even know her name with a Twitter plea
for the personal protective equipment and other medical equipment the
state desperately needs from the national strategic stockpile. “Hi, my
name is Gretchen Whitmer, and that governor is me,” she wrote. “I’ve
asked repeatedly and respectfully for help. We need it. No more
political attacks, just PPEs, ventilators, N95 masks, test kits. You
said you stand with Michigan — prove it.”
The governor told WWJ-AM in Detroit
on Friday morning that she had been trying to get on the phone with
Trump at about the same time he was lambasting her in a call to Hannity.
“I reached out to the White House last night, asked for a phone call
with the president,” she said, but never heard back.
Earlier in the week, Whitmer told a local radio station
that one hospital in her state had received a shipment from the federal
government last week with just 747 masks, 204 gowns, 64 face shields
and 40,467 gloves. “With the exception of the gloves, that allotment of
PPE didn’t cover one shift,” she said.
On Friday, the governor told CNN
that, after Trump had asked governors to procure their own medical
supplies, her state had placed a large number of orders — only to be
told later by suppliers that they had been instructed to send the items
to the federal government instead.
A short time later, Trump used the White House briefing on the public
health emergency to vent more at Whitmer and Inslee. He concluded his
rant by saying that he had advised Vice President Mike Pence, the head
of his coronavirus task force, to not even bother speaking with them. “I
say, ‘Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington, you’re wasting your
time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan,” the president said.
“If they don’t treat you right, I don’t
call,” Trump said of refusing to speak to the governors of two American
states during a global pandemic.
Before calling it a day on Friday, Trump approved major disaster declarations for South Carolina and Puerto Rico, but not Michigan.
He then took out his iPhone and tried to escape blame for the
outbreak in Michigan, which has already killed 92 people, by tweeting
insults at the governor. “I love Michigan, one of the reasons we are
doing such a GREAT job for them during this horrible Pandemic,” the president wrote.
“Yet your Governor, Gretchen ‘Half’ Whitmer is way in over her head,
she doesn’t have a clue. Likes blaming everyone for her own ineptitude!”
Trump’s apparent demand that the governors of U.S. states do him a
political favor, though — by praising his response to the crisis on
television, in exchange for him unlocking federal aid — strongly echoed the scheme he was impeached for last year. In that case, Trump withheld aid from Ukraine to coerce its president into agreeing to go on CNN and announce a sham investigation of Joe Biden, his likely rival in the November election.
In fact, the situation with Michigan’s governor is almost identical
to a hypothetical the legal scholar Pamela Karlan asked members of the
Judiciary Committee to consider during the impeachment hearings in
Update: Saturday, March 28, 5:55 p.m. EDT
On Saturday afternoon, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reported on Twitter
that she had spoken with Vice President Mike Pence and thanked the
White House for declaring a major disaster declaration for Michigan,
freeing up federal assistance for the state, two days after it was
requested. She also thanked the FEMA for a new shipment of 112,000 N95
masks to her state’s emergency operations center.