Trump and Cuomo, occasionally combative, hold 'productive' meeting on coronavirus

The New York governor told MSNBC that he asked the president for federal help with testing.

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By Adam Edelman and Dareh Gregorian

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo met with President Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday for what both called a "productive" meeting on the need for federal help with coronavirus testing and financial help for hard-hit states.

"I think we had a very good conversation," the New York Democrat told MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace in a phone interview after the meeting, and there was an "acknowledgment that we all need to work together on this. It has to be a real partnership."

"The state has laboratories in the state, the state regulates the labs, the state should determine where tests are taken and how they're allocated. The tracing is a state function. But we need help from the federal government to make the supply chain work for the manufacturers," Cuomo said.

Trump, at his daily briefing later on the pandemic, agreed the meeting was "productive" and said he and Cuomo are on the same page and had a "great talk on testing."

"The federal government will work along with the state on the national manufacturers and distributors. Together, we’ll all work together to help them secure additional tests and we hope that this model will work with the other states as well. We think it will,” Trump said.

The governor said he also made the case for federal aid to the states.

"The states are in desperate shape," and the funding deal announced by Congress Tuesday doesn't provide them direct aid," Cuomo said. "The president seemed very open and understanding of that and said the next piece of legislation that passes he's going to be open to that."

Cuomo also told Trump the crisis in New York — which has seen over 18,000 deaths from the virus — has improved to the point the state no longer needs the USNS Comfort, the Navy hospital ship the president deployed to New York City last month. Trump said "we'll be bringing the ship back" to "get it ready for its next mission."

Cuomo told MSNBC he'd requested the face-to-face meeting with Trump.

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At his daily pandemic briefing earlier Tuesday, Cuomo said he planned to talk to Trump about better coordination on testing. "Let's coordinate who does what, what do the states do, what does the federal government do,” Cuomo said.

Trump in a pair of tweets on Monday said that it was the state's responsibility to handle testing but that the federal government would "work with the Governors and get it done."

The New York governor, with whom Trump has frequently traded barbs during the outbreak, acknowledged they might not necessarily see eye-to-eye on every issue during the meeting.

Asked Tuesday how he would handle the delicate but crucial relationship, Cuomo said it would require walking a "fine line."

The two Queens, N.Y., natives have alternated praising and bashing each other in the weeks since New York became the area of the country hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

Cuomo has credited Trump for being accessible and responsive to the state’s needs, including sending a U.S. hospital ship to New York City and having the Army Corps of Engineers build a temporary hospital to help ease the strain on the state’s overburdened healthcare system.

He also criticized the president for not taking control of ventilator production, lags in testing and for allowing the federal government to outbid states — including New York — for personal protective equipment for front line workers.

Trump has praised Cuomo's professionalism and said "we get along," while also mocking the governor's earlier demand for up to 40,000 ventilators, more than the number in the national stockpile and also, as Trump has noted, thousands more than the state wound up needing. Cuomo said the request was made based on projections from the Trump administration.

Tensions boiled over last week, after Trump declared that he had total authority to order states to reopen – leading Cuomo to suggest Trump was trying to act like a "king."

On Friday, Trump took aim at Cuomo after the governor said the state needed federal help to perform testing and reopen the economy.

"Governor Cuomo should spend more time 'doing' and less time 'complaining'. Get out there and get the job done," Trump tweeted.

Cuomo responded to the tweet at his press briefing.

"You want me to say thank you? Thank you for doing your job," he said Friday.