Trump Finally Invokes Defense Production Act After All Caps-Tweeting At Companies To Make Ventilators

President Donald Trump yells to reporters as he walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump yells to reporters as he walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, in Washington (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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March 27, 2020 1:59 p.m.
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President Donald Trump finally invoked the Defense Production Act to compel the production of more ventilators Friday, after a steady stream of tweet-yelling at companies to do it on their own accord.

“Today, I signed a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use any and all authority available under the Defense Production Act to require General Motors to accept, perform, and prioritize Federal contracts for ventilators,” he said in a statement. “Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course. GM was wasting time. Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives.”

Trump had come under widespread fire for his reluctance to utilize the Defense Production Act earlier, which allows the government to direct corporations to produce supplies.

Previously, while Trump took to Twitter to urge private companies to shell out the machines “FAST,”  his administration provided the companies with nothing but mixed messaging and a lack of specifics behind the scenes.

Though he blamed GM for “wasting time,” a deal initially planned to be announced Wednesday, where General Motors and Ventec Life Systems would produce 80,000 ventilators for over $1 billion, was scrapped because of the administration’s hesitation.

Per the New York Times, the plan was scuttled by FEMA needing to assess if the price tag was doable.

All the while, Trump went on Fox News Thursday night to tell Sean Hannity that the need for tens of thousands of ventilators in New York was overblown.

“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” he said, after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) called for federal aid in procuring them. “You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they’ll have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”

While the administration is mired in indecision on a price or number of ventilators to make, a simulation conducted by the Health and Human Services department last year stands in particularly stark relief.

During that simulation, unearthed by the Times, a deadly influenza originating in China spread to the United States where it ravaged the population, leaving 7.7 million hospitalized and 586,000 dead.

That exercise revealed the many points of weakness the country would face amid such an epidemic: bureaucratic confusion, a lack of cohesive guidance as cities and states made their own decisions and a scarcity of critical equipment — ventilators, specifically.

After months of rosy predictions that the virus would go away on its own, and that life would be back to normal soon, Trump has flipped to claiming that he understood the severity of the pandemic from the start.

As pertains to the need for ventilators and country’s inability to quickly produce more of them, at least some people in his administration did know. But the White House’s external pomp and internal chaos seem to have kicked that crucial production down the road.

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