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Trump blames WHO for pandemic mismanagement, says he’ll halt U.S. funding

President Trump announced at the daily White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing on Tuesday that the U.S. will halt funding of the World Health Organization during the coronavirus pandemic. Trump contends that the group mismanaged the health crisis and wasted precious time -- some of the same criticisms that have been leveled at him. Yamiche Alcindor joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    There is news this evening from the daily White House briefing.

    President Trump says that the U.S. will halt funding to the World Health Organization during this global pandemic. The U.S. is currently the largest current contributor to the WHO.

    Our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor, has been watching, and she joins us with the latest.

    Yamiche, what is the White House saying? What's the president saying?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, there was big news, as you said, at the White House briefing today, saying that the president wants to halt and is halting funding to the World Health Organization.

    He lashed out at that organization and said that they severely mismanaged the coronavirus pandemic. He said that they chose political correctness when they were opposing travel restrictions that, of course, the president and others were putting into place.

    He also said that they wasted time and that they should have really talked about this pandemic and earlier been more serious about it.

    Now, the dynamics of this is that the president is accusing the World Health Organization of what many of the president's critics are accusing the president of. Many say that the president was the one who was slow to react, slow to take this seriously, when he was downplaying the virus.

    I should say that the president also said that the World Health Organization was praising China's transparency.

    But on January 24, the president also tweeted praising China's transparency.

    So it's a big deal. But the president is also in some ways blaming the World Health Organization for how bad this has gotten.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Yamiche, we know the president has been saying he might do something like this. He's been threatening, if you will, talking about the possibility.

    Do you know what — what actually triggered the decision?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    I think what triggered the decision was, one, I think the lashing out that the president did yesterday, when he — when he felt like he was being attacked and being accused of being slow to act.

    There is — there are real questions about what the president was doing in February, when he was downplaying the virus and when it was spreading across the United States and in other countries.

    But there also is the things that the president has said. The president said that the big things that were weighing on his mind were, one, that the WHO was against travel restrictions when he put them in place in China.

    And the second thing is that the organization was talking about not having human-to-human contact — or human-to-human transmission, rather, when this was happening, when — which is what China was saying at the time.

    So the president is saying that the WHO is essentially sounding too much like China. But, again, critics of the president say this is a really bad move in the middle of a world pandemic.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, just quickly, Yamiche, we know the president has been saying and said again yesterday that he's the one with all the authority, in his words, total authority to make a decision about when to lift restrictions.

    Is the White House saying any more about that today?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The White House and President Trump are still doubling down on the idea that, as president, he has — quote — "total authority" over states.

    But there are governors that are speaking out pretty forcefully. The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, said that that's the authority of a king, and the United States doesn't have a king, and, as a result, the president is wrong there.

    I can say, for a quick fact-check, of course, there's a 10th Amendment of the United States that says that the federal government has limits to its power, and that the states have their own rights.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yamiche Alcindor.

    And, of course, we — a little earlier in the program, we interviewed the governor of Connecticut, who said he disagrees with the president. He and other governors in the Northeast are looking at coming up with their own coordinated plan.

    Yamiche Alcindor, following the White House briefing for us, thank you, Yamiche.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thanks, Judy.

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