WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump, who has often used his daily coronavirus briefings to criticize Democratic governors in places like New York and California, extended his reach Monday to swing at a GOP state leader who has become a critic of the president’s insistence that states are prepared to ramp up testing.
Trump and other White House officials have sought for days to deflect criticism from states that the federal government has not done enough to meet the testing needs required to begin reopening businesses and lifting stay-at-home orders. Among the most vocal governors pushing back on that narrative has been Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.
Hogan, a Republican and the chairman of the National Governors Association, has emerged as a spokesman for governors of both parties during the crisis – on states’ needs for testing, ventilators and other medical gear. He has become a regular fixture on Sunday political shows and cable television and drew national attention Monday for announcing that his state had secured 500,000 coronavirus tests from South Korea.
“This is probably the number one problem in America, and has been from the beginning of this crisis, the lack of testing,” Hogan said on CNN on Sunday.
Trump fired back Monday, and took the rare step of repeatedly criticizing a governor from his own party during the daily briefing with White House reporters.
“Some of the governors like, as an example, the governor from Maryland, didn’t really understand the list, he didn’t understand too much about what was going on,” Trump said, referring to a list of some 5,000 laboratories nationwide the administration has said is prepared to accept addition coronavirus tests. “So now I think he’ll be able to do that. It’s pretty simple. They have tremendous capacity. We hope to be able to help him out.”
Trump went on to criticize Hogan’s purchase of tests from South Korea. The president said that Hogan “could have saved a lot of money” if he had asked Washington instead. He later said “a little knowledge” would have been helpful for the governor.
“He really didn’t know about the federal laboratories,” Trump said. “If he did know about it, he would have been happy.”
Hogan has, in fact, been arguing for additional testing for weeks. Governors and some health officials have said labs are hamstrung by a lack of swabs and reagents needed to conduct the tests. Trump threatened this weekend to use the Korea War-era Defense Production Act to speed the manufacture of swabs.
A Hogan spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
“Well, I don’t want to get into criticizing back and forth,” Hogan said during an appearance on CNN soon after the president’s remarks. “I’m not sure what the president’s referring to.”
Trump has had an on-again, off-again relationship with several Democratic governors, lurching between heaping criticism and praise on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for instance. Before Monday, he had generally not criticized Hogan, a centrist Republican who represents a heavily Democratic state.
While he criticized Hogan, Trump said Cuomo would visit the White House on Tuesday. Over the weekend, the president played a series of videos of Cuomo praising Trump and the federal response to the virus.
Contributing: Michael Collins