Between his hours-long coronavirus press conferences and mismanaging an unprecedented public health crisis, one would imagine the president is too busy to find time to properly insult his political rivals. But on Thursday, Trump managed it all when he responded to a letter from Chuck Schumer, calling the Senate Minority Leader “wrong in every way” and blaming the massive outbreak in New York — which began in March — on the impeachment process that ended in early February.
It began with a letter from the New York senator, in which Schumer called on Trump to appoint a logistical expert from the military to use the Defense Production Act to properly allocate resources to the states. The president wrote back, calling the correspondence a “public relations letter” full of “incorrect sound bites.” Trump then lauded his use of the DPA so far aa a near-Biblical force: “It has been powerful leverage, so powerful that companies generally do whatever we’re asking, without even a formal notice. They know something is coming, and that’s all they need to know.”
The insults directed at Schumer were made even stranger by an account from his office, which stated that after the senator “made clear what he was requesting, the president said he was already in the process of sending a ‘very nasty letter’ to Sen. Schumer, but he would try to stop it from going out and would apologize to Sen. Schumer if he didn’t stop it in time.” In that light, Trump’s jab came with an assumed pre-apology, a rare caveat for this president.
After shaming New York for the immense breakout in the state — where 2,373 people have already died from COVID-19 — the letter ends on a dubious allegation, claiming that the impeachment trial exacerbated the current crisis on the ground in the Empire State. “If you spent less time on your ridiculous impeachment hoax, which went haplessly on forever and ended up going nowhere (except increasing my poll numbers), and instead focused on helping the people of New York, then New York would not have been so completely unprepared for the ‘invisible enemy,’” Trump wrote.
Just as that claim ignores the timeline of the crisis — New York had its first coronavirus case almost a full month after the impeachment wrapped up — Trump also ignores his administration’s failure to secure proper testing in the early days of the pandemic, when decisive federal action could have substantially mitigated outbreaks like that in Trump’s birth state. But it wasn’t the first time that Republicans leaned on the impeachment as an excuse for coronavirus inaction: Last week, Mitch McConnell argued that the impeachment had “diverted the attention of the government” as the administration failed to act on credible reports of the seriousness of the crisis in January.