White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was grilled on Friday about a lingering question of its coronavirus response: Why didn’t it refill the national stockpile of medical supplies in the three years since President Donald Trump has been in office?
After McEnany repeated Trump’s frequent claim — that his predecessor Barack Obama left the “cupboards” bare of the strategic supply needed to fight a pandemic — she was then asked why the president didn’t act to refill it in the time he’s been in office.
While McEnany insisted that the president “immediately went into action” when it was necessary to get supplies for healthcare workers, NBC News Digital senior correspondent Shannon Pettypiece asked whether there was any effort to replenish the supply before January, 2020, when the coronavirus outbreak first occurred.
McEnany said that Alex Azar, the secretary of health and human services, told her that “when we got to the federal government we were on the brink, we were in very hostile confrontations with several powers because of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. And there were real bioterrorism threats. And that was there immediate threat that the administration focused on in terms of the stockpile.”
Earlier this month, ABC News’ David Muir asked Trump why the administration didn’t replenish the stockpile while he was in office.
“Well, to be honest, I have a lot things going on,” Trump responded. “We had a lot of people that refused to allow the country to be successful. They wasted a lot of time on Russia, Russia, Russia that turned out to be a total hoax. And then they did Ukraine, Ukraine, and that was a total hoax. Then they impeached the president of the United States for absolutely no reason.”
Trump’s claim that his predecessor left the stockpile depleted also has been challenged. Factcheck.org called it false, Politifact deemed it mostly false, and The Washington Post Fact Checker said it was misleading, with the caveat that Trump may have been referring to a lack of N95 masks specifically.
McEnany, though, tried to turn the focus to the Trump administration’s efforts this year, which she said was “extraordinary.” She insisted that they “transitioned as quickly as possible and filled the empty cupboards left by President Obama.”
The concerns over the administration’s preparedness took on new relevance this week after Rick Bright, a former official at the Department of Health and Human Services, testified before a congressional committee that his warnings in January and February of the need for ventilators, masks and other supplies went unheeded.
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