‘I don’t take responsibility at all’: Trump deflects blame for coronavirus testing fumble

President Donald Trump on Friday deflected blame for his administration’s lagging ability to test Americans for the coronavirus outbreak, insisting instead — without offering evidence — that fault lies with his predecessor, Barack Obama.

“I don’t take responsibility at all,” Trump said defiantly, pointing to an unspecified “set of circumstances” and “rules, regulations and specifications from a different time.”

The remarks from the president came in response to questions at a Friday press conference about the lack of widespread access to testing, an aspect of his administration’s coronavirus response that has been the subject of widespread, steady criticism. Administration officials told lawmakers yesterday that the U.S. tested about 11,000 people during the first seven weeks of the outbreak — roughly as many as South Korea is testing each day.

And Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee on Thursday that “the system is not really geared to what we need right now” in and called the testing system “a failing.”

But Trump, who spent weeks downplaying coronavirus before declaring it a national emergency on Friday, argued that the health care system was not designed for an outbreak on the scale of coronavirus, “with the kind of numbers that we are talking about.”

The president kept his criticism lighter and more forward-looking at first, declaring that his administration is “leaving a very indelible print in the future in case something like this happens again.”

“That’s not the fault of anybody — and frankly the old system worked very well for smaller numbers, much smaller numbers but not for these kind of numbers,” he added.

But then Fauci stepped up to the mic to clarify his position, arguing that the CDC’s testing system, “for what it was designed for, it worked very well,” and maintaining that an “embrace” of the private sector was necessary for testing at the kind of scale needed for the fast-spreading coronavirus.

Then, Trump began pointing fingers.

“If you go back — please, if you go back to the swine flu, it was nothing like this. they didn’t do testing like this,” he interjected, referencing the 2009 H1N1 pandemic that sickened more than 60 million people between April 2009 and 2010. Trump asserted that the Obama administration “didn’t do testing” and that when “they started thinking about testing,” it was “far too late.”

He reiterated a claim made on Twitter earlier in the day, calling the Obama administration’s response to the swine flu outbreak “a very big failure,” though the H1N1’s fatality rate of .02 percent is much lower than the lowest fatality estimates for the coronavirus thus far.

Trump later got testy with another reporter who pressed him on whether he bore any responsibility for the surge in cases, noting that he’d disbanded the White House’s pandemic office.

Trump told the reporter, PBS NewsHour’s Yamiche Alcindor — with whom he’s butted heads with in the past — that her inquiry was a “nasty question.”

After noting that his administration had quickly acted to restrict travel from China, where the coronavirus outbreak originated, the president said he personally was not responsible for dissolving the Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, which had been part of the National Security Council until his administration disbanded it and rolled its officials into another office.

[Politico]

Trump condemns CDC for lack of coronavirus testing, blames Obama

President Donald Trump on Friday criticized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for being ill-prepared to test for the coronavirus and he blamed former President Barack Obama for the situation.

“For decades the @CDCgov looked at, and studied, its testing system, but did nothing about it. It would always be inadequate and slow for a large scale pandemic, but a pandemic would never happen, they hoped. President Obama made changes that only complicated things further,” he wrote.

In a follow-up tweet, Trump continued his broadside: “Their response to H1N1 Swine flu was a full scale disaster, with thousands dying, and nothing meaningful done to fix the testing problem, until now. The changes have been made and testing will soon happen on a very large scale basis. All Red Tape has been cut, ready to go!”

During the announcement on Friday afternoon that he would be declaring a national emergency, Trump again assigned blame to others.

“No, I don’t take responsibility at all,” he said about the delays. “Because we were given a set of circumstances.”

On Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified at a House hearing that the U.S. has failed to meet the capacity for testing.

“The system is not really geared to what we need right now,” he said. “That is a failing. Let’s admit it.”

Two issues have led to the slow process in testing for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. One was that the CDC had initially put out narrow guidelines for who could be considered for testing. Those criteria were eventually expanded and so far about 11,000 specimens have been tested, according to the agency. South Korea, on the other hand, has been testing nearly 20,000 people each day for the disease, according to reports.

There were also technical issues with the test kits in which they tested for more than just the coronavirus, and the glitch affected the integrity of the kit.

Trump tweeted Thursday that “Sleepy Joe Biden was in charge of the H1N1 epidemic which killed thousands of people,” and said that “the response was one of the worst on record.”

Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates responded that Trump should focus on fighting the current outbreak instead of “desperately tweeting lies about the Obama-Biden Administration.”

[NBC News]

Reality

From an AP Fact check:

His newfound disdain for the CDC’s actions and his criticisms of Obama and Biden are based on a faulty description of what happened in the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, initially called “swine flu.”

Then, the CDC’s flu surveillance network actually sounded the alarm, spotting two children in California who were the first diagnosed cases of the new flu strain. About two weeks later, the U.S. declared a public health emergency and CDC began releasing anti-flu drugs from the national stockpile to help hospitals get ready. Trump declared a state of emergency Friday, seven weeks after the first U.S. case of COVID-19 was announced.

Testing wasn’t the primary concern then. The huge challenge was finding a vaccine.

The new flu popped up in April, too late to insert into vaccine already being brewed for that fall. Switching strains was scientifically doable but it took months to grow the new flu virus in eggs and extract it to make a second, separate vaccine that didn’t become available until November, when the new flu was waning.

That vaccine delay prompted the CDC and National Institutes of Health to spur research into new ways to make flu vaccine faster, by skipping having to grow the virus in eggs. Today egg-based shots still are most common but there are some faster-to-produce competitors. And NIH is pursuing a universal flu vaccine that one day might cover all strains in one dose, but is still years away.

On the testing front, 2009 does offer a bit of caution. While CDC’s lab test didn’t have the types of problems it has had with COVID-19, the agency did warn that some “rapid” tests that doctors used varied in accuracy. So far there are no rapid tests for COVID-19.

As for thousands dying, it actually turned out that the new H1N1 strain was less deadly than average seasonal flu. But even that comparison is problematic, because regular flu years are deadliest for the elderly while H1N1 was riskiest for younger people.

Trump’s accusation that Obama introduced further complications appears to refer to a false point he has made before.

Food and Drug Administration guidance drafted during the Obama administration called for tighter regulation of so-called laboratory-developed tests, a market traditionally not overseen by the agency. Trump says that step made it more difficult to come out with a coronavirus test. But that guidance never took effect. And if it had, it would not have applied to public health emergencies like the current one.

President Trump blames Obama for coronavirus testing problems

That’s President Donald Trump deflecting the criticism his administration has been facing over its response to the coronavirus.

The comments were made during a meeting with airline executives at the White House on Wednesday. Here’s a clip:

According to the New York Times, Trump was referring to a regulation that limited the ability of laboratories run by states, universities and private companies to conduct screenings not approved by the FDA. Now, those labs are allowed to use tests they independently developed.

“It’s really very, very important,” CDC director Robert Redfield said at the White House event. “It’s what’s changed the availability of testing overnight.”

Here’s Vice President Mike Pence’s explanation:

Still, Trump’s deflection came under fire from his critics.

But CNN, quoting an aide to Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, reported that while the Obama administration had proposed stricter test oversight, no changes were ever actually approved.

Obama didn’t immediately respond to the accusation, but he did chime in on Twitter about how to navigate the coronavirus outbreak

[MarketWatch]

Gruesome Video of Fake Trump Killing Media in Mass Shooting Played at One of His Resorts

At a time when our nation is facing an epidemic of mass shootings, supporters of President Donald Trump showed a violent depiction of a fake Trump massacring members of the news media using a gun and other weapons at a conference held at one of the president’s resorts, the New York Times reported Sunday night.

American Priority, a group that supports the president, hosted the conference at Trump National Doral Miami. Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and Florida Governor Rick DeSantis were all scheduled to speak at the event. But Huckabee Sanders and a source close to Trump Jr. denied either saw the video.

Bloomberg technology reporter William Turton surfaced a video matching the description from the Times on YouTube. The video appears to have been uploaded by YouTube account TheGeekzTeam in July 2018, and the account has posted other videos doctored to make it look like Trump is violently killing his enemies. Although Turton said he has not yet been able to confirm the YouTube video was the same one played at the conference, the details in the video as described by the Times line up, although portions like the Barack Obama interview at the end of the video were not reported to have been shown.

In the video,a man with Trump’s head superimposed on his body goes into a building labeled the “Church of Fake News” where people inside are labeled with logos of major news outlets including Vox, Politico, the Washington Post, HuffPost, ABC and NBC covering their heads. Trump then opens fire, killing numerous media outlets including Vox, Politico and NPR, in addition to activist group Black Lives Matter. The fake Trump begins his rampage using a gun but later switches to a wooden stake and a knife. Also in the video are Hillary Clinton, Maxine Waters, Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama, John McCain and Rosie O’Donnell — all of them are slaughtered by the killer Trump. The mass murder ends with the president driving a wooden stake into the head of a person depicted as the church’s minister with a CNN logo covering their face as DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” plays in the background.

The footage, the Times said, was taken and doctored from a church massacre scene in the dark comedy “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”

Trump’s presidency has been marked by criticism of the news media, and recently he has even been vocally critical of his beloved Fox News. The president himself has shared a video depicting himself as violent toward the media, tweeting out a doctored video of him body slamming a man with a CNN logo over his head in 2017. Trump has also turned his ire toward reporters during his political rallies, spurring his supporters to taunt and threaten members of the media covering him.

When we are barely a year out from the tragic Capital Gazette shooting in Maryland that killed five of the newspaper’s staff not to mention other recent mass shootings in churchessynagogues and mosques, videos like this are particularly dangerous, especially when they are broadcast at events even loosely affiliated with the president and on property he owns.

[Rolling Stone]

Media

Trump Wants the Government to Investigate Obama’s Netflix Deal

President Donald Trump kicked off his week with one of his favorite hobbies: calling for the investigation of his perceived political enemies.

Trump fired off tweets Monday suggesting that former President Barack Obama should be investigated for getting a production deal with Netflix.

“House Judiciary has given up on the Mueller Report, sadly for them after two years and $40,000,000 spent – ZERO COLLUSION, ZERO OBSTRUCTION. So they say, OK, lets look at everything else, and all of the deals that “Trump” has done over his lifetime,” Trump posted.

“But it doesn’t work that way. I have a better idea,” he added. “Look at the Obama Book Deal, or the ridiculous Netflix deal. Then look at all the deals made by the Dems in Congress, the ‘Congressional Slush Fund,’ and lastly the IG Reports. Take a look at them. Those investigations would be over FAST!”

It’s not clear why Trump might think Obama’s post-presidency ventures are worth investigating. But they have proven lucrative: The former president and former first lady Michelle Obama inked the reportedly “high-8-figure” deal with Netflix and a joint book deal reportedly worth $65 million. The Obamas have launched a number of projects with Netflix already, including a documentary about a factory opening in Ohio and a drama about post-WWII New York.

Monday wasn’t the first time Trump got hung up on investigating the money the Obamas have made since they left the White House.

“We want to find out what happened with the last Democrat president,” Trump told reporters in July. “Let’s look into Obama the way they’ve looked at me. From Day 1, they’ve looked into everything that we’ve done. They could look into the book deal that President Obama made. Let’s subpoena all of his records.”

Contrary to Trump’s claim, the House Judiciary Committee hasn’t given up on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Just last week, it voted to expand its impeachment investigation and moved to obtain former special counsel Robert Mueller’s most sensitive materials, including evidence and testimony from a grand jury.

[Vice]

Trump Defends His Golf Habit In Angry Tweets At London Mayor

President Donald Trump lashed out at London Mayor Sadiq Khan with a pair of Tuesday morning tweets defending his golf habit after the mayor criticized him for hitting the links as Hurricane Dorian headed for the U.S. Southeast coastline. 

Trump on Friday suggested he would spend all of the next day monitoring the storm at Camp David. Instead, he spent hours playing golf at his private club in Virginia. He returned to the golf course on Monday for another game.

“The incompetent Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was bothered that I played a very fast round of golf yesterday,” Trump wrote Tuesday, after first misspelling the mayor’s first and last names.

The two men have clashed repeatedly since Trump took office in 2016 and proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States; Khan is London’s first Muslim mayor.

In his tweets, Trump misleadingly compared his golfing to the ways other politicians unwind, such as by exercise or travel.

“Me, I run through one of my courses (very inexpensive). President Obama would fly to Hawaii,” Trump wrote.

His claim that his presidential golf trips aren’t costly is also wrong. Trump has already cost American taxpayers more than $110 million for golf getaways since his January 2017 inauguration, according to HuffPost’s analysis. That’s more than the travel expenses former President Barack Obama accrued over eight years, a conservative group estimated.

Trump also encouraged Vice President Mike Pence to stay at his luxury golf club in Ireland. Pence took him up on it, even though his meetings with Irish leaders are in Dublin, on the opposite side of the country.

Many critics say that by spending so many taxpayer dollars on his own properties, Trump is violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause prohibiting presidents from profiting off their role in the Oval Office.

Trump had planned to join other world leaders in Poland over the weekend to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II. He said Hurricane Dorian ― which has devastated the Bahamas ― prompted him to cancel. 

Speaking to reporters from the event in Poland, Khan noted sarcastically that Trump was “clearly busy dealing with a hurricane out on the golf course.”

The comment apparently rankled Trump, who does not often address criticisms of his golfing. According to CNN’s count, the president has so far spent 227 days of his presidency at one of his golf clubs.

Khan, Trump said, “should focus on ’knife crime,′ which is totally out of control in London.”

“He is a terrible mayor who should stay out of our business!” the president fumed.

A White House spokesperson said over the weekend that Trump was receiving hourly updates on Hurricane Dorian, which has left at least five dead in the Caribbean.

Despite this, the president incorrectly warned Alabamians on Monday to prepare for the hurricane to hit their state and doubled down on the idea when challenged ― even after officials issued a correction stating that Alabama wasn’t threatened.

Dorian has weakened from a Category 5 to a Category 2 hurricane and was still approaching Florida on Tuesday.

[Huffington Post]

US President Trump reiterates call for Russia to rejoin ‘G8’

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump noted that his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, had wanted Russia out of what used to be the G8 “because Putin outsmarted him”.

“But I think it’s much more appropriate to have Russia in. It should be the G8 because a lot of the things we talk about have to do with Russia,” Trump said, just days before a G7 summit — minus Russia — in Biarritz, France.

Trump added, “I could certainly see it being the G8 again. If someone would make that motion, I would be disposed to think about it favourably…. “They should let Russia come back in, because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.”

Russia pushed out after Crimea

Russia was pushed out of the G8 in 2014 because of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

It was not the first time Trump has floated the idea of Russia getting back together with the G7, which groups the United States, Germany, Japan, France, Britain, Italy and Canada.

In June 2018, Trump suggested Russia should attend a forthcoming G7 summit in Canada. A Kremlin spokesman seemed to reject the idea, saying Russia was focused on other formats.

Two days later, President Vladimir Putin said Russia did not choose the G7 and would be happy to host its members in Moscow.

Trump has periodically called for closer ties with Russia, although his administration’s policy has included strong sanctions against Moscow.

He is due to host the next G7 meeting in the United States next year.

[France24]

Trump claims credit for Shell plant announced under Obama

President Donald Trump sought to take credit Tuesday for a major manufacturing complex in western Pennsylvania in his latest effort to reinvigorate the Rust Belt support that sent him to the White House. He was cheered on by fluorescent-vest-clad workers who were paid to attend by Shell, their employer, which is building the facility.

Despite Trump’s claims, Shell announced its plans to build the complex in 2012, midway through President Barack Obama’s term in the White House.

The event was billed as an official White House event, but Trump turned much of it into a campaign-style rally, boasting of achievements he claims as president and assailing his would-be Democratic rivals for the 2020 election.

“I don’t think they give a damn about Western Pennsylvania, do you?” he prodded the crowd.

Trump was visiting Shell’s soon-to-be completed Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex, which will turn the area’s vast natural gas deposits into plastics. The facility is being built in an area hungry for investment and employment, though critics claim it will become the largest air polluter in western Pennsylvania.

Trump contends that America’s coal, oil and manufacturing are reviving and he deserves the credit. He’s been focusing on his administration’s efforts to increase the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels in defiance of increasingly urgent warnings about climate change. And he’s embracing plastic at a time when the world is sounding alarms over its impact.

“We don’t need it from the Middle East anymore,” Trump said of oil and natural gas, proclaiming the employees “the backbone of this country.”

As for the new complex, he declared, “This would have never happened without me and us.”

Trump’s appeals to blue-collar workers helped him win Beaver County, where the plant is located, by more than 18 percentage points in 2016, only to have voters there turn to Democrats in 2018’s midterm elections. In one of a series of defeats that led to Republicans’ loss of the House, voters sent Democrat Conor Lamb to Congress after the prosperity promised by Trump’s tax cuts failed to materialize.

Today, the much of the area is still struggling to recover from the shutting of steel plants in the 1980s that sent unemployment to nearly 30%. Former mill towns like Aliquippa have seen their population shrink, though Pittsburgh has lured major tech companies like Google and Uber, fueling an economic renaissance in a city that reliably votes Democratic.

Trump claimed that his steel and aluminum foreign-trade tariffs have saved the industries and that they are now “thriving,” exaggerating the recovery of the steel industry, particularly when it comes to jobs, which have largely followed pace with broader economic growth.

Trump took credit for the addition of 600,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs. Labor Department figures show that roughly 500,000 factory jobs have been added since his presidency started.

Manufacturing has also started to struggle anew this year as the administration has intensified its trade war with China and factory production has declined. Pennsylvania has lost 5,600 manufacturing jobs so far this year, according to the Labor Department.

The region’s natural gas deposits had been seen, for a time, as its new road to prosperity, with drilling in the Marcellus Shale reservoir transforming Pennsylvania into the nation’s No. 2 natural gas state. But drops in the price of oil and gas caused the initial jobs boom from fracking to fizzle, leading companies like Shell to turn instead to plastics and so-called cracker plants — named after the process in which molecules are broken down at high heat, turning fracked ethane gas into one of the precursors for plastic.

The company was given massive tax breaks to build the petrochemicals complex, along with a $10 million site development grant, with local politicians eager to accommodate a multibillion-dollar construction project.

But “fracking for plastic” has drawn alarm from environmentalists and other activists, who warn of potential health and safety risks to nearby residents and bemoan the production of ever more plastic. There has been growing concern over the sheer quantity of plastic on the planet, which has overwhelmed landfills, inundated bodies of water and permeated the deepest reaches of the ocean. Microplastics have been found in the bodies of birds, fish, whales and people, with the health impacts largely unknown.

“Of all the things we could invest in, of all the things we should be prioritizing, of all the companies we should be giving our taxpayer money to, this seems like the worst of all worlds,” said David Masur, executive director of PennEnvironment, a statewide environmental advocacy organization.

Trump defended the investment in plastics, claiming pollution in the ocean is “not our plastic.”

“It’s plastics that’s floating over in the ocean and the various oceans from other places,” he told reporters before boarding Air Force One.

A spokesman for Shell, Ray Fisher, said the company has “dedicated a great deal of time and resources” to ensure emissions from the plant meet or exceed local, state and federal requirements. “As designed, the project will actually help improve the local air shed as it relates to ozone and fine particulates,” he said.

The project currently has 5,000 construction workers. Once operational, however, the number of permanent employees at the site will shrink to 600.

The area still faces economic headwinds. The nearby Beaver Valley Power Station, a nuclear plant that has employed 850 people, has announced plans to close in 2021. And the Bruce Mansfield Power Plant, once the state’s largest coal-powered plant, announced Friday that it would close this fall, 19 months earlier than expected, at a cost of at least 200 jobs.

[Yahoo News]

Trump attacks Obama for statement on shootings

President Donald Trump on Tuesday attacked former President Barack Obama over the latter’s statement on the weekend’s mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, tweeting edited quotes from Fox News hosts to make his point and again claiming he is “the least racist person” in the world.

“‘Did George Bush ever condemn President Obama after Sandy Hook. President Obama had 32 mass shootings during his reign. Not many people said Obama is out of Control,’” Trump tweeted. “’Mass shootings were happening before the President even thought about running for Pres.’ @kilmeade @foxandfriends”

Trump’s message was a distillation of a sentiment “Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade expressed on-air shortly after 6 a.m. The president followed up that tweet with another post paraphrasing a comment from Kilmeade’s morning show colleague, Ainsley Earhardt.

“‘It’s political season and the election is around the corner. They want to continue to push that racist narrative.’ @ainsleyearhardt @foxandfriends,” Trump continued. “And I am the least racist person. Black, Hispanic and Asian Unemployment is the lowest (BEST) in the history of the United States!”

Obama on Monday afternoon lamented the violence that transpired Saturday morning in El Paso, Texas, and early Sunday morning in Dayton, Ohio, which left at least 31 people dead and dozens more injured.

In his statement, Obama called on Americans to “soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments.” The former president did not mention Trump or any other politician by name.

The 21-year-old white man accused of carrying out the El Paso shooting is suspected of authoring a racist, anti-Hispanic manifesto before the rampage, and many high-profile Democrats have partly blamed the president’s history of incendiary immigration rhetoric for the attack.ADVERTISING

Trump on Monday morning condemned “racism, bigotry and white supremacy” during a televised address from the White House. “Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul,” he said.

For years, Trump has referred to himself as the “least racist” person on Earth, touting that self-designation as recently as last week after he was widely rebuked for his racially charged criticisms of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the city of Baltimore and four progressive congresswomen of color.

[Politico]

Trump: Immigrants didn’t want to come to America before I was president because ‘Obama wasn’t a cheerleader’

President Donald Trump’s strange rant about fireworks at Mt. Rushmore wasn’t the only head-scratching exchange that occurred during his recent interview with reporters from The Hill.

During another part of the interview, Trump was asked about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) criticism of the internment camps he’s been using to house immigrant children.

Trump completely dodged the question and instead tried to blame former President Barack Obama for his own family separation policies.

“Obama built many of these, cells as he calls them, as they call them,” Trump said. “Remember the big, the big deal where they showed the cells all over and they said, Donald Trump, and they showed young children in the cells and Donald Trump built these cells? It turned out they were built in 2014 when Obama was president. No the conditions are much better than they were under President Obama.”

The president then bragged about the fact that Hispanic employment was low before pivoting back to attacking Obama by claiming that no immigrants wanted to come to the country when he was president.

“Because our economy is so good, you know we have the lowest unemployment rate that we’ve had in fifty-one years,” he said. “We have the lowest unemployment rate for Black, for Hispanic, for Asian, for women, but we have the lowest rate that we’ve had in, in you know many generations and what’s happening, and it wasn’t that way when I came in by the way, in fact the country was ready to tube, we were gonna have a big problem. And what did it were the regulations and other things. Also I think maybe the cheerleading did it, you know President Obama wasn’t a cheerleader, he was saying you can’t get manufacturing jobs, you need a magic wand. He wasn’t a positive cheerleader.”

[Raw Story]

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