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Under Bipartisan Pressure, Trump Admin Reportedly Considering Coronavirus Czar

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The czar, which would mirror the duties of Ronald Klain’s role as the Obama White House’s Ebola Response Coordinator, would coordinate the administration’s response to the outbreak. At the time of Klain’s appointment, Trump — who fear mongered on Twitter and cable news about that virus’ risk to Americans — repeatedly criticized Klain.

Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Rick Scott (R-FL) both called on the Trump administration to appoint a Coronavirus czar, Politico reported.

“On anything like this, somebody’s got to be in charge, and there ought to be one person that has the authority to make a decision on exactly what the federal response is,” Scott told Politico.

Romney said Tuesday that he’d expressed to the administration he was “very disappointed in the degree to which we’ve prepared for a pandemic,” The Hill reported.

“At this stage, I think we are substantially underinvesting in what would be appropriate for a setting which could be serious,” he added.

The White House announced on Jan. 29 that it was assembling a presidential Coronavirus task force comprised of high-ranking officials from various agencies. The group met Jan. 31, though the administration has come under fire for dragging its feet.

When it asked Congress Monday for $2.5 billion to fight the outbreak — half of which was to be diverted from other, already-allocated sources, including half a billion from the fund for fighting Ebola — Democrats slammed the move as “likely too little, too late,” in the words of Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) after a closed-door briefing with administration officials.

Meanwhile, Trump and others in his administration have tried to put a positive spin on the situation, blaming the media and Democrats for the bad press.

“The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA,” Trump tweeted Monday.

“We have contained this. We have contained this. I won’t say airtight, but pretty close to airtight,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on CNBC Tuesday.

That runs counter to experts in the administration.

“It’s not so much a question of if this will happen any more, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” Nancy Messonier, the CDC’s director for immunization and respiratory diseases, said Tuesday.

About The Author

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Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously associate editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.