President Donald Trump declares a national emergency due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in the Rose Garden of the White House on March 13, 2020 in Washington, DC.Oliver Contreras/CNP via Zuma
“I just think that’s a nasty question.”
That was Trump’s response when, at Friday afternoon’s coronavirus press conference, PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor pressed the president about why he refused to take responsibility for disbanding the White House office for pandemic preparedness, in March 2018.
“When you say me, I didn’t do it,” Trump scoffed. “I mean, you say we did that. I don’t know anything about it.”
In reality, the White House got rid of its global health security team in a 2018 John Bolton-led reshuffle. With the sudden departure of its leader, there was no top-ranking White House official looking after how the US should respond to crises like the coronavirus.
But when it suits the president, he’s more than happy to brag about budget cuts to health agencies, citing his business prowess.
Last month, responding to a question from a reporter about why he has consistently called for “enormous cuts to the CDC, the NIH, and the WHO,” Trump responded: “I’m a businessperson. I don’t like having thousands of people around when you don’t need them. When we need them, we can get them back very quickly.”
My colleague Mark Helenowski put this video together to show what a difference a few short weeks can make.