As the United States grapples with the novel coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump said on Friday that he didn’t know “anything about” a reorganization of the National Security Council that dismantled a key pandemics office nearly two years ago.
The head of that team, Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer, left suddenly after the team was disbanded in 2018 along with other members of the office; he had been tasked with how the country responds to a threat like the novel coronavirus.
When Trump was asked by the PBS NewsHour’s Yamiche Alcindor this afternoon about whether he took responsibility for the decision, the president called it a nasty question, saying it wasn’t him and gesturing to other members of his administration that were part of a group of people that make decisions.
“We’re doing a great job,” he added.
Beth Cameron, the former head of the pandemics office who now works at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, wrote an op-ed in Friday’s Washington Post in which she said that the lack of a pandemics office meant the White House was without both speed and leadership when handling the crisis. “We lost valuable time,” she wrote.
Trump on Friday declared a national emergency to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak. The number of cases in the U.S. has so far climbed above 1,600, and public health officials have shared concern in recent days that the U.S. does not have enough tests or hospital beds, among other supplies, to handle a widespread outbreak.