Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD) followed President Donald Trump’s advice and took coronavirus testing into his own hands. Trump attacked him anyway.
Trump began Monday’s White House coronavirus briefing by criticizing Hogan — chair of the National Governors Association — for turning to a foreign source to buy coronavirus tests.
“The governor of Maryland didn’t really understand,” Trump said, describing a call that Vice President Mike Pence had with governors earlier in the day to encourage them to do more to increase coronavirus testing on their own. “He didn’t really understand what was going on.”
"The governor of Maryland didn't really understand. He didn't really understand what was going on" -- Trump begins the April 20 #TrumpPressBriefing by attacking Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, who has been critical of the federal coronavirus response. pic.twitter.com/OTMwj6v5Sp— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 20, 2020
Trump was upset because Hogan and his wife — Yumi Hogan, a Korean immigrant — not only announced earlier Monday that they purchased 500,000 test kits from suppliers in South Korea, but also because Hogan indirectly criticized him during an interview with the New York Times.
On Saturday, First Lady Yumi Hogan and I stood on the tarmac at @BWI_Airport to welcome the first ever Korean Air passenger plane, carrying a very important payload of LabGun #COVID19 test kits which will give MD the capability of performing half a million coronavirus tests. pic.twitter.com/Elf0ADIRnJ— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) April 20, 2020
“The No. 1 problem facing us is lack of testing,” Hogan told the Times. “We can’t open up our states without ramping up testing.”
“It should not have been this difficult,” he added.
CNN reported that Hogan’s wife, Yumi Hogan, “not only used her native language to help secure the tests but also helped negotiate the deal.”
“The administration made it clear over and over again they want the states to take the lead, and we have to go out and do it ourselves, and that’s exactly what we did,” Hogan said during a news conference on Monday.
Trump talks a big game about testing
Experts say the US needs to triple its testing capacity before it will be safe for businesses to reopen, but the number of tests completed daily has remained largely flat for the past month. Trump doesn’t seem to have an answer to this puzzle other than to turn the tables on governors.
For instance, Trump trolled governors on Monday by flipping through a packet of papers that he said contained information about how they can better utilize lab capacity in their states.
Trump flips through a packet of paper that's meant to illustrate all the labs state governments could use to do more coronavirus testing (in other words it's a form of passing the buck) pic.twitter.com/brkRgvwqPa— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 20, 2020
But during an interview on CNN that coincided with the briefing, Hogan dismissed the value of the information Trump is sharing with governors, saying, “most of the governors already knew where the lab facilities were in their states.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan:— JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) April 20, 2020
“Most of the governors already knew where the lab facilities were in their states. …most of the ones that they sent me in Maryland were all federal facilities…none of which were state-owned labs or facilities where we could actually do any testing." pic.twitter.com/UpO2IbeBDw
Trump, however, refuses to acknowledge there’s more he could do. Later during Monday’s briefing, the president suggested that governors like Hogan who have urged him to ramp up national testing efforts are part of a political conspiracy to bring him down.
Trump suggests that demands for more testing, just like requests for ventilators, are part of a political conspiracy meant to take him down -- not necessary measures to respond to a virus that has killed more than 40,000 Americans pic.twitter.com/uFFBnqwgQP— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 20, 2020
Trump’s line in recent days has been to claim, without evidence, that other countries are reaching out to the US for help because testing here is going so great. Hogan’s announcement suggested that talk is a bunch of nonsense — and Trump wasn’t pleased.
At another point during Monday’s briefing, CNN’s Kaitlin Collins asked White House officials why Hogan would need to turn to South Korea for testing kits if it’s true, as Trump claims, that states already have enough testing capacity to begin the process of reopening business and schools. Nobody had a good answer.
.@kaitlancollins: If we have enough tests now for everyone to go into phase one, why is the governor of Maryland having to get tests from South Korea?— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 20, 2020
HHS OFFICIAL GIROIR: "I don't know what the governor of Maryland is doing in South Korea but there's excess capacity every day" pic.twitter.com/gnIWfewtTs
Later, Trump returned to the podium and said that Hogan should’ve just called Mike Pence.
“The governor of Maryland could’ve called Mike Pence and saved a lot of money,” Trump said. “I think he needed to get a little knowledge.”
But if it’s true that states have much more testing capacity than they’re currently utilizing, that hasn’t yet showed up in the daily testing numbers. And until it does, governors who don’t have connections in South Korea will likely find Trump’s bluster to be cold comfort.