President Donald Trump says he is cutting U.S. funding to the World Health Organization while his administration reviews the agency’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump said late Tuesday the WHO played a "role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of coronavirus.”
He contends the U.N. agency failed to carry out what he said was its “basic duty” to investigate the early reports of the virus that were coming out of China when the outbreak began in December.
There has been no reaction so far from the WHO.
Trump has been on the defensive recently because of accusations in the media and elsewhere that he failed to recognize the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak early enough to give the U.S. more time to prepare.
During Monday’s White House coronavirus task force briefing, which ran nearly 2½ hours, Trump played what his critics quickly labeled a propaganda video to counter reports he ignored early warnings about the new virus.
“Because we have fake news, I like to document things,” Trump said of the video that he explained was produced by his social media director, Dan Scavino, and other White House staff.
The screening of the video prompted some U.S. networks, such as CBS, CNN and MSNBC, to cut away from live coverage of the briefing.
"Everything we did was right," Trump told reporters, after playing the campaign-style video.
A former executive editor of The New York Times, Howell Raines, called the video “one of the most astonishing acts of disinformation from the White House since the Vietnam (War) era.”
The president is also facing a backlash over his assertion that he has “the ultimate authority” over states on lifting stay-at-home directives and reopening the country’s economy.
“His proclamation is that he would be king,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. “That statement cannot stand.”
Cuomo explained to reporters Tuesday that the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is not ambiguous in stating presidents do not have “total authority,” as Trump declared the previous evening during a White House coronavirus briefing.
“He is wrong on the law, this is not a legal issue,” Cuomo said.
The New York governor said Trump is “clearly spoiling for a fight” with state leaders, but “I am not going to fight with him,” explaining the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 25,000 Americans, is no time for any division between the federal and state governments.
President Trump said Monday he “calls the shots,” in reply to a question from VOA about whether consortiums of states developing their own reopening plans pose a challenge to his authority to declare a national reopening amid the pandemic.
“They can’t do anything without the approval of the president of the United States,” Trump declared.
He insisted there are numerous provisions of the Constitution backing him up on this, asserting “when somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total.”
Three prominent Republican lawmakers disagree.
“The federal government does not have absolute power,” Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming tweeted.
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said, “How and when to modify social distancing orders should and will be made by Governors.” He added on Twitter that “Federal guidelines issued by the CDC and White House will be very influential. But the Constitution & common sense dictates these decisions be made at the state level.”
The constitution does not allow the federal government “to become the ultimate regulator of our lives because they wave a doctor’s note,” tweeted Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.
“Powers not delegated are reserved to states & the people,” noted Paul. “If we dispense with constitutional restraints, we will have more to worry about than a virus.”
Trump is to soon decide whether to reopen the United States to commerce at a time when governors of all but a handful of the 50 states have imposed stay-at-home edicts because of the viral pandemic.
Cuomo and five other governors of northeastern states began deliberations Tuesday on a regional plan to reopen their economies.
It should be state governors who make these decisions as they have been the ones “showing great leadership,” which has kept people safe, Rhode Island’s Gina Raimondo told her fellow governors on Monday.
The governors of three Western states, California, Oregon and Washington, also announced Monday they are similarly taking a unified approach.
The East and West Coast consortiums together represent about 100 million people, nearly a third of the country’s population.
Trump plans to unveil a second task force, which the White House prefers to call a council, to study the timing for the U.S. economy’s reopening. Concern is being expressed that another coronavirus-related top-level federal panel, in addition to another informal group led by the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, could create an additional layer of confusion to what many regard as a haphazard U.S. response to the pandemic.
The president recommended physical distancing between Americans through the end of April but is considering whether to reopen the country fully or partly May 1.
Trump has said he is seeking input from not only his medical experts but business leaders, as well.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, on Tuesday told the Associated Press that the United States does not yet have the critical testing and tracing procedures needed to begin reopening the nation’s economy.
“We have to have something in place that is efficient and that we can rely on, and we’re not there yet,” said Fauci.
Fauci’s credibility, according to public opinion polls, is much higher than any politician's, including the president's.