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'I will protect you if your governor fails': Trump hails his 'good moves' in coronavirus fight

President will ask Congress for $250bn more to help small businesses survive during pandemic lockdown

John T. Bennett
Wednesday 08 April 2020 00:05 BST
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Donald Trump announced Tuesday night he will seek $250bn more from Congress to replenish a new federal program to help small businesses cope with the coronavirus lockdown as he vowed to protect all Americans and shift blame to state executives.

The president capped another deadly day in the United States as a fourth anti-virus relief bill continued to come into slow focus with another combative performance in the White House briefing room amid questions about warnings the virus could rock the US from inside his own West Wing. He also denied firing the acting Navy secretary, who fired an aircraft carrier commander whose warnings about Covid-19 spreading through his crew went public, and said Thomas Modly "didn't have to" step down. Mr Trump said he would allow remaining Navy leaders to decide what to do about the fired ship commander, Captain Brett Crozier, who has tested positive for the virus.

"I will protect you if your governor fails," Trump said during his daily Covid-19 briefing from the White House before announcing his request that lawmakers refill the Paycheck Protection Program, to which Congress initially allocated $349bn, after demand raided the account as businesses reeled from the pandemic outbreak. "Some governors fail. But when they fail, I will help."

The president suggested the fund should be considered "limitless" so business can stay afloat during the crisis.

Democratic lawmakers with whom his administration will have to negotiate an expected "phase four" virus economic stimulus and recovery measure also want to do more to help small businesses.

Mr Trump again endorsed trying to include a massive infrastructure measure as part of the fourth anti-virus measure. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, has told her members a section to spend billions on improving the countries roads, bridges, tunnels and other critical infrastructure.

Meantime, the president predicted the federal government will have 110,000 ventilators to fight the respiratory disease by June – only that he has said the next two weeks will be the "peak" of those contracting and dying from the virus. That means breathing machine models delivered in late May and June might not be of use against the coronavirus.

He noted UK officials are seeking 200 ventilators, but did not commit to providing those.

Amid questions about whether his administration is doing enough to get ventilators to hard-hit states and cities, the president announced the federal emergency medical stockpile now has 8,675 models.

Those federal ventilators are "ready to move," Mr Trump claimed, adding "our military is going to move them."

But some governors have said they are having trouble getting administration officials to commit to providing the breathing machines they need.

His pledge to "move" the breathing machines to places where demand is highest is a slight departure from his recent claim about states and ventilators.

"Some states have more ventilators than they need," Mr Trump said during a Saturday briefing. "They don't even like to admit it. They'll admit it when everything's over but that doesn't help us very much."

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo both have warned their hard-hit states will not have ample ventilators to treat Covid-19 victims. Mr Cuomo has said his state might run out of the machines during this month's "peak."

There are over 12,000 dead inside the United States from the virus with nearly 387,000 confirmed cases, according to The Johns Hopkins University.

Those new figures come as Mr Trump denied, before earlier Tuesday, seeing a report from one of his top trade and economic advisers warning about the coronavirus threat. He also denied that he had he seen it previously, it would have altered his actions.

Instead, he led his daily briefing by touting his own "good moves" while he blasted the World Health Organization for, in his view, failing to see evidence of the disease going public inside China.

Mr Trump sent mixed signals about the WHO, first saying he would withhold US funding to the group while he "looks at" what it knew about Covid-19 and when before saying he "might" do so.

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