Schumer Describes Bizarro Phone Call With Trump Over COVID-19 Response

Surrounded by members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference on COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, in the Rose Garden of the White House on March 13, 2020.(Pho... Surrounded by members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference on COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, in the Rose Garden of the White House on March 13, 2020.(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
|
March 20, 2020 1:52 p.m.
EDITORS' NOTE: TPM is making our COVID-19 coverage free to all readers during this national health crisis. If you’d like to support TPM's reporters, editors and staff, the best way to do so is to become a member.

President Trump and a spokesperson for Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) offered vastly different accounts for when and why Trump supposedly sought to invoke the Defense Production Act, which would speed up the production of medical equipment needed in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The President and Schumer spoke twice on the phone Friday morning. According to a readout provided by Schumer’s office shortly after the calls, Schumer “urged” Trump to issue an invocation of the law.

“POTUS told Schumer he would, and then POTUS yelled to someone in his office to do it now,” a Schumer spokesperson said in the readout (emphasis added).

But at a White House press conference not long after that readout was released, President Trump claimed that he had actually signed the invocation earlier this week.

“I did it yesterday. We invoked it, I think, the day before, we signed the evening of the day before and invoked it yesterday,” Trump said.

The claim has caused some confusion, given the lack of any public announcement Thursday night that Trump had invoked the law and that Trump had previously said that he would only do so in a “worst case scenario.”

Trump was asked Friday whether the invocation meant the U.S. was in the worst case scenario.

“No, it’s not different other than we need certain equipment that the states are unable to get themselves. So we are invoking it to use the power of the federal government to help the states get things they need like the masks, the like the ventilators,” Trump said.

Trump comments at the press conference did back another claim Schumer’s office made in its account of the call.

Schumer urged the president to ban companies from using any federal financial assistance they receive in the crisis to buy back their own stock, increase executive pay or lay off or cut back their work force, according to the readout.

Trump supported a ban on stock buybacks, according to Schumer’s spokesperson, and Trump himself said at the press conference he did not want companies using federal assistance on buying back stock.

Key Coronavirus Crisis Links

TPM’s COVID-19 hub.
Josh Marshall’s Twitter List of Trusted Experts (Epidemiologists, Researchers, Clinicians, Journalists, Government Agencies) providing reliable real-time information on the COVID-19 Crisis.
COVID-19 Tracking Project (updated data on testing and infections in the U.S.).
Johns Hopkins Global COVID-19 Survey (most up to date numbers globally and for countries around the world).
Worldometers.info (extensive source of information and data visualizations on COVID-19 Crisis — discussion of data here).
Comments
advertisement
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer:
SPECIAL DEAL FOR PAST TPM MEMBERS
40% OFF AN ANNUAL PRIME MEMBERSHIP
REJOIN FOR JUST $30