US president Donald Trump dismantled the National Security Council’s pandemic response unit in 2018 ― a subject he claims to know nothing about now that the US is being buffeted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump explicitly denied any responsibility for mishandling the COVID-19 crisis at a news conference on Friday, where he told PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor he didn’t “know anything about” his former national security adviser’s elimination of the White House global health security team.
Instead, he called Alcindor’s question “nasty” and moved on.
“I just think it’s a nasty question,” Trump said. “When you say ‘me,’ I didn’t do it ... You say we did that, I don’t know anything about it.”
He did do it. And there’s video of him discussing his justification last month. (Watch it above.)
“I’m a business person,” the president said in a Feb. 26 White House press briefing. “I don’t like having thousands of people around when you don’t need them.”
“Some of the people we’ve cut they haven’t been used for many, many years, and if we ever need them we can get them very quickly and rather than spending the money.”
The National Security Council’s Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense was created under President Barack Obama after the 2014 Ebola outbreak, The New York Times pointed out. It included health and biodefense experts to coordinate the U.S. response to global health threats.
Senator Sherrod Brown called out Trump for claiming ignorance of his actions to disband the pandemic team. Last week, Brown circulated a letter he sent the White House in 2018 questioning the wisdom of eliminating the global health security office:
“The administration’s proposed budget cuts threaten our ability to respond to a public health emergency,” Brown warned at the time. “In our globalized world, where diseases are never more than a plane ride away, we must do all we can to prepare for the next, inevitable outbreak and keep Americans safe from disease.
“I urge you to act swiftly in reaffirming your commitment to global health security by taking immediate action to designate senior-level NSC personnel to focus on global health security, supporting adequate and appropriate funding for global health security initiatives, and leading the way in preparing for the next pandemic threat.”