As Obama calls “so-called adults”, the Trump administration takes a victory lap

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“Thanks to the President’s historic response efforts here and the collaborative work of heroic governors and health workers on the front lines, we are able to reopen,” said Azar.

“All those adults you thought were responsible and knew what they were doing?” It turns out they don’t have all the answers, “said the former president during the Saturday night special of” Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020. “” Lots of between them don’t even ask the right questions. So, if the world improves, it will depend on you. “

In an implicit reprimand from the President in a week when Trump organized an intensive White House public relations campaign to improve Americans’ perception of his response to the pandemic, Obama urged graduates to focus on their communities , instead of pursuing selfish activities.

“Doing what is good, what is practical, what is easy – that is what small children think. Unfortunately, many so-called adults, including some with fanciful titles and important jobs, still think that way – that’s why things are so messed up, “said Obama. “I hope that instead you will decide to base yourself on lasting values, such as honesty, hard work, responsibility, fairness, generosity, respect for others. His remarks came a week after he criticized the administration’s management of the pandemic response as “a completely chaotic disaster” in a private phone call with alumni of his administration.

Returning to the Camp David White House on Sunday, Trump called his predecessor “grossly incompetent.”

The contrast between Obama’s harsh criticism and Trump’s vigorous efforts to reshape the story of his administration’s random response to the virus has offered a glimpse of the arguments the two sides will present during the general election campaign. Obama is moving further and further from the sidelines to become a staunch defender of his former vice president, Joe Biden, while Trump and his allies may sound deaf as they announce the answer at a time when American deaths are approaching six figures.

A risky approach to reopening

The former president’s public comments closed a solemn week when US coronavirus cases approached 1.5 million and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tweeted that all of the forecasting models followed by the CDC now predicts that deaths in the United States will exceed 100,000 by June 1.

But Trump continued to press relentlessly for states to open their economies. During a Rose Garden event this week where he reiterated his hope that a coronavirus vaccine could be ready by the end of this year – a goal that many medical experts consider very optimistic – Trump said that “vaccine or no vaccine, we’re back. “

Asked what the president meant by the phrase, Azar said on Sunday that a potential vaccine is only one part of the administration’s response efforts which will include increased testing, more surveillance to find the case and investigation of treatments for coronaviruses like convalescent plasma, which involves doctors testing for antibodies to the virus in the blood plasma of a person who recovered and then injected the plasma, or a derivative , to the person infected with a coronavirus.

When CNN’s Jake Tapper noted the number of deaths in the United States – saying that “the United States has less than 5% of the world’s population but 30% of officially reported coronavirus deaths worldwide” – Azar pointed out the high complication level of medical factors like obesity, hypertension and diabetes in the United States: “Every death is a tragedy, but the results could have been vastly, much worse,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the American population is very diverse and it is a population with significant unhealthy co-morbidities which make many individuals in our communities, in particular, African-Americans and minority communities, particularly at risk here, due to ‘Significant underlying disparities in disease and health. comorbidities of illness and it is an unfortunate legacy in our health care system that we must certainly address. ”

“The response here in the United States has been historic to keep this in our healthcare capacity,” added Azar.

When asked if he was alarmed by images of crowded bars and restaurants in states like Wisconsin and Ohio this weekend, Azar said it was inevitable that people would do things ” irresponsible ”. “This is part of the freedom we have here in America,” he said.

“If you are in an area where the disease continues to spread in the community, you need to take certain measures,” said Azar. “We are counting on local leaders to implement and interpret this according to the local situation. But we have to get this economy and our people out – work, go back to school, because there are serious health consequences from what we went through. ”

About NBC’s “Meet the Press”, Trump’s business advisor Peter Navarro, policy coordinator of the Defense Production Act, said critics that the White House should have made more use of the Defense Production Act to obtain medical supplies and personal protective equipment is “completely wrong. He also argued that keeping people under “lockdown” could ultimately “kill many more people.”

“Because we basically closed our hospitals for everything except Covid, the women didn’t get mammograms or cervical exams for cancer. We were unable to perform any other heart or kidney procedures. And it will kill people too, “said Navarro on Sunday. “So if you contrast like this complete lockdown – where some members of the medical community just want to run and hide until the virus is gone – it’s not only going to have a huge impact on the American economy, but it will kill many more people than the virus, the China virus, would ever do. ”

Navarro also sought to blame the early problems with the CDC’s coronavirus tests. The agency, he said on Sunday, “really dropped the country with the tests. Because not only did they keep the tests within the bureaucracy, but they had a bad test. “

Another Friday night shot

With Americans distracted by the toll of the pandemic, the president took advantage of the moment to execute a dismissal on Friday evening of the State Department inspector general who helped lawmakers during the dismissal investigation – a decision that provoked outrage from Democrats and warnings from Republican Senses. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Mitt Romney of Utah.

State Department Inspector General Steve Linick was the fourth independent government watchdog that Trump was either fired or moved to replace perceived charges in the months following his acquittal in February that the officials were disloyal, critical of his administration or simply relapse. democratic administrations.

Romney, the only GOP senator who voted to condemn Trump for the abuse of power, tweeted that “the layoffs of several inspectors general are unprecedented; to do so without valid reason jeopardizes the independence essential to their objective. It is a threat to responsible democracy and a crack in the constitutional balance of power. ”

Linick’s dismissal was similar to Friday’s dismissal on Friday evening in April of Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community who alerted Congress to the anonymous whistleblower complaint in Ukraine. In both cases, Trump told congressional leaders that he must have “the greatest confidence” in the people named as inspectors general and that he had lost that confidence.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders – echoing his fellow Democrats who opened an investigation into the layoff – strongly criticized Linick’s layoff on Sunday during an appearance on ABC “This Week”.

“This president thinks he is above the law, he is above the critics. He wants to get away with everything he can, and he does not understand that in the function of government, you have a Congress, you have inspectors general who say, through the President, what you are doing is wrong and maybe illegal. It’s been the way it works since day one, “said Sanders.

President Nancy Pelosi told CBS on “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the White House had not provided reasons for the dismissal of the State Department inspector beyond the letter she had received from Trump on Friday. The dismissal of an inspector general who opened a potentially harmful investigation could be “illegal,” she said, adding that “even Republicans in Congress are worried.”

But if that’s true, only a few spoke, including Grassley, Romney and Republican Senator Susan Collins from Maine.

Senator Ron Johnson, Republican Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, told CNN’s Tapper on “State of the Union” that he was satisfied with the administration’s explanations for Linick’s withdrawal.

“I don’t know if they’re going to provide a stronger rationale for doing so,” said Johnson. He also said that he and Grassley had a “real problem” with Linick’s “responsiveness” to a monitoring request, although he did not provide further details.

In a statement on Saturday, Grassley said the president was required to provide legislators with a written explanation for the dismissal of the inspectors general and said, “a general lack of confidence is simply not enough to satisfy Congress.”

Annie Grayer and Sarah Westwood contributed to this story.

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