WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday ripped Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer as "missing in action" during the coronavirus crisis after the New York Democrat called on him to appoint a "czar" with a military background to oversee the dissemination of critically needed supplies to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
"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 told Schumer in a letter that was released minutes before Navy Rear Adm. John Polowczyk, who has been heading up the Federal Emergency Management Agency's supply chain task force, spoke at the White House coronavirus briefing.
"He is working 24 hours a day, and is highly respected by everyone," Trump said of Polowczyk in the letter.
"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.' No wonder AOC and others are thinking about running against you in the primary," Trump wrote, referring to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. "If they did, they would likely win."
Schumer, in an interview Thursday morning on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," said Trump needed “to put in charge a czar of the whole production and distribution of these materials under the DPA,” referring to the Defense Production Act.
Schumer said that person should be a “military man” because the military knows how to collect and distribute materials quickly. He sent a letter to Trump Thursday to formally ask him to take that step.
“While companies that volunteer to produce ventilators and PPE are to be commended and are appreciated, America cannot rely on a patchwork of uncoordinated voluntary efforts to combat the awful magnitude of this pandemic," Schumer wrote. "It is long past the time for your administration to designate a senior military officer to fix this urgent problem.”
The Democratic leader said in the interview that he had spoken to Peter Navarro, an assistant to the president for trade and manufacturing policy who has been put in charge of overseeing the production and distribution of supplies, and came away "disappointed."
“I was very disappointed. He's a good man. He's a professor, he knows a lot about China — he knows nothing about this,” Schumer said.
Moments after Schumer's TV appearance, Trump said in a tweet that his administration already has a military man in charge of distributing goods, “a very talented Admiral, in fact.”
In a follow-up tweet, Trump said that it doesn’t matter how much Schumer asks for because it would “never be good enough.” He said the minority leader should “stop complaining & find out where all of these supplies are going."
Trump announced last Friday at the White House coronavirus task force news briefing that he was tapping Navarro to be the policy coordinator for the use of the Defense Production Act. Navarro did not serve in the military.
Schumer had urged the administration to declare the virus a public health emergency on January 26, and a month later said the White House's $2.5 billion request for money to combat the virus was too low. Congress later passed an $8 billion package, which was in line with what Schumer recommended.