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President Trump, speaking at the White House coronavirus briefing on Thursday, unloaded on Democrats who have created a new House committee with subpoena authority to investigate the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Also during the press conference, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced that the first round of stimulus checks will be directly deposited into Americans’ bank accounts in the next two weeks. And, Trump revealed he had again tested negative for coronavirus.
“We have seen Americans unite with incredible selflessness and compassion,” Trump began. “I want to remind everyone here in our nation’s capital, especially in Congress, that this is not the time for politics, endless partisan investigations. Here we go again. They’ve already done extraordinary damage to our country in recent years.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday she’s creating a new House committee to oversee the coronavirus response.
“It’s witch hunt after witch hunt after witch hunt,” Trump continued. “And in the end it’s people doing the witch hunt who are losing — and they’ve been losing by a lot. And it’s not any time for witch hunts.”
Speaking of the virus, Trump said: “It’s time to get this enemy defeated. Conducting these partisan investigations during a pandemic is a really big waste of vital resources, time, attention. And we want to fight for American lives, not waste time and build up my poll numbers, because that’s all they’re doing, because everyone knows it’s ridiculous.”
Trump echoed those remarks in a harshly worded letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Thursday. Trump was responding to what he called Schumer’s “Democrat public relations letter and incorrect sound bites, which are wrong in every way” concerning the federal coronavirus response.
“If you spent less time on your ridiculous impeachment hoax, which went haplessly on forever and ended up going nowhere (except increasing my poll numbers), and instead focused on helping the people of New York, then New York would not have been so completely unprepared for the ‘invisible enemy,'” Trump wrote.
The president added: “I’ve known you for many years, but I never knew how bad a Senator you are for the state of New York, until I became president.”
Trump further asserted that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would “likely” defeat Schumer in a primary if she chose to run.
Schumer’s office later told Fox News that Schumer had worked things out with Trump, and that “after Sen. Schumer further made clear what he was requesting, the president said he was already in the process of sending a ‘very nasty letter’ to Sen. Schumer, but he would try to stop it from going out and would apologize to Sen. Schumer if he didn’t stop it in time.”
That apparently didn’t happen.
On Wednesday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., compared the current pandemic to Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and called for a comprehensive probe.
“After Pearl Harbor and 9/11, we looked at what went wrong to learn from our mistakes. Once we’ve recovered, we need a nonpartisan commission to review our response and how we can better prepare for the next pandemic. I’m working on a bill to do that.”
Unlike the 9/11-style after-action committee that Schiff and others have proposed, Pelosi said the committee she formed Thursday is designed to address the “here and now” — specifically concerning the allocation of the historic amount of federal funds directed to economic recovery.
Pelosi compared the new committee to the Senate bipartisan committee chaired by then-Sen. Harry Truman in 1941 to investigate waste, fraud and abuse in defense spending in the early days of World War II.
“With over $2 trillion in emergency relief, we need to ensure those dollars are spent carefully and effectively,” Pelosi said of the massive stimulus bill Congress already passed to address the coronavirus pandemic.
Democrats’ allegation that the White House dawdled in the face of crisis came as Republicans pointed out that in January, when the Trump administration blocked travel from China and formed a coronavirus task force, Democrats were leading his impeachment.
U.S. intelligence reports in January and February warned of a likely pandemic, The Washington Post reported recently.
According to the Post: “Intelligence agencies ‘have been warning on this since January,’ said a U.S. official who had access to intelligence reporting that was disseminated to members of Congress and their staffs as well as to officials in the Trump administration, and who, along with others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive information.”
Despite that apparent warning, Schiff’s intelligence panel was focused elsewhere. Schiff’s Twitter feed did not mention the virus at all until Feb. 24, 2020, and Schiff’s House Office press releases didn’t mention it until March 15, 2020. The House intelligence panel website still has no press releases at all on the topic.
Instead, Schiff was almost exclusively focused on hiring staff to handle impeachment, bringing in roughly a dozen new employees.
And, Politico reported that the Trump administration held a briefing on the coronavirus for senators, but it was “sparsely attended” in part because it “was held on the same day as a deadline for senators to submit their impeachment questions.”
“By February, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees had been receiving updates from the intelligence community about the spread of the virus for about a month,” the outlet said.
Fox News’ Marisa Schultz, Mike Emanuel, and Andrew O’Reilly contributed to this report.