Former President Barack Obama has sharply criticized President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, describing the administration’s response as “an absolute chaotic disaster” during a call with fellow Democrats, according to a recording obtained by Yahoo News.
The blistering comments came during a Friday call with the Obama Alumni Association, which is made up of people who served in the 44th president’s administration.
“What we’re fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided, and seeing others as an enemy — that has become a stronger impulse in American life,” Obama said in the 30-minute recording. “And by the way, we’re seeing that internationally as well. It’s part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so anemic and spotty.”
The former president admitted the outbreak would have been bad under any circumstances, but he said with Trump in the White House the situation has spiraled.
“It would have been bad even with the best of governments. It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset — of ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘to heck with everybody else’ — when that mindset is operationalized in our government,” he said.
The call, which CNN independently confirmed, was meant to encourage Obama’s supporters to back his former vice president, Joe Biden, in the November election. Obama told supporters he plans to campaign vigorously for Biden, in hopes of defeating Trump.
“That’s why, I, by the way, am going to be spending as much time as necessary and campaigning as hard as I can for Joe Biden,” he stated.
President Trump has consistently defended his response to the COVID-19 outbreak, saying his administration has taken steps to mitigate the crisis, including imposing travel restrictions on visitors from China and Europe as well as implementing social distancing guidelines.
“I think we saved millions of lives,” he said earlier this week.
As of Saturday afternoon, 77,034 people had died from complications of COVID-19 in the United States and 1.27 million tested positive, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
During the call, Obama also lashed out at the Justice Department for dropping the charges against former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn.
“The news over the last 24 hours I think has been somewhat downplayed — about the Justice Department dropping charges against Michael Flynn,” Obama said.
“The fact that there is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free. That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic — not just institutional norms — but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk,” he added.