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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was aghast Thursday night after receiving a letter in which President Trump accused him of being a “bad” senator and asserted that Schumer was vulnerable to a primary challenge from within his own party.
“No wonder AOC [U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and others are thinking about running against you in the primary. If they did, they would likely win,” Trump wrote.
The president’s letter was apparent retaliation after Schumer wrote to the White House earlier in the day, criticizing Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. The Democrat responded during an appearance on MSNBC.
“I’m just appalled,” Schumer said on the liberal network. “I say to the president, ‘Just stop the pettiness. People are dying. And so, President Trump, we need leadership, we need to get the job done. Stop the pettiness. Let’s get it done. Let’s roll up our sleeves. I sent the letter with the best of intentions, trying to improve a very bad situation.”
Schumer represents New York, which has become the epicenter for the outbreak in the U.S. with nearly 93,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 2,300 deaths as of late Thursday. Both figures were far greater than those for any other state.
Schumer told MSNBC host Chris Hayes he wrote to the president hoping to convince him to implement a more centralized plan for distributing medical supplies around the country, rather than allowing states to draft their own plans, as Trump has preferred.
Democrats and other critics have said Trump’s state-based plan has resulted in shipment delays, price gouging as states compete for supplies, and other problems.
“So this morning I sent the president a letter and said, ‘Why don’t you invoke the Defense Production Act and put in place a military person?” Schumer said. “Somebody who knows command and control, someone who knows logistics, someone who knows quarter-mastering -- to not only commandeer factories and supply chains to make the stuff that we need, desperately need, but also to distribute it in the places that are most needed.”
Schumer claimed the nation’s 50 governors have been left “hunting and pecking” for medical supplies for lack of a federal acquisition and distribution plan.
“I spoke to the president late this afternoon and explained it,” the senator added, “and the result is this letter.”
But in his letter, Trump insisted to Schumer that the Defense Production Act “has been consistently used" by him and his team -- although companies have been honoring the administration's requests "without even a formal notice."
Trump also alleged Schumer "chose to ignore” the appointment of Rear Adm. John Polowczyk, who is "in charge of purchasing" and "distributing" medical supplies.
The president also took aim at New York, accusing the state of being underprepared to handle the virus.
"We have given New York many things, including hospitals, medical centers, medical supplies, record numbers of ventilators, and more,” Trump wrote. “You should have had New York much better prepared than you did, as Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx said yesterday, New York was very late in its fight against the virus.
“As you are aware, the Federal Government is merely a back-up for state governments,” Trump continued. “Unfortunately, your state needed far more of a back-up than most others."
Trump also accused Democrats of focusing on impeachment instead of the virus as it spread in China months ago.
“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),” Trump wrote, “and instead focused on helping the people of New York, then New York would not have been so completely unprepared for the 'invisible enemy.'
Fox News' Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this story.