(CNN)The White House released a letter from President Donald Trump attacking Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in starkly personal terms on Thursday — just moments after the President said that “this is not the time for politics.”
Trump was speaking at the White House daily coronavirus briefing at the same time his staff released the letter to Schumer, in which he blasted the New York Democrat’s request for more streamlined leadership in mandating production to support the coronavirus response.
“I’ve known you for many years but I never knew how bad a Senator you are for the state of New York, until I became President,” Trump wrote to Schumer, disparaging his request as “Democrat public relations letter and incorrect soundbites, which are wrong in every way.”
The exchange highlights Trump’s negotiating strategy once again defaulting to a political clash with a top Democrat as the coronavirus outbreak worsens, forcing the administration to work with key Democrats such as Schumer, a long-standing critic, to establish a federal response.
However, Trump had attempted to keep the letter from being sent out after speaking with Schumer on the phone Thursday afternoon.
Schumer’s office told CNN that the President had told the New York Democrat that he had written a “very nasty letter” to Schumer, and “he would try to stop it from going out and would apologize to Sen. Schumer if he didn’t stop it in time.”
New graf: New York has emerged as the virus’ epicenter in the United States, leading all other states with more than 92,000 cases and more than 2,400 deaths as of Thursday night, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also drawn Trump’s ire after pushing back against the federal government’s response strategy.
In the letter, Trump attacked Schumer for New York’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as what he calls the “ridiculous impeachment hoax.” Trump claimed that if Schumer had spent less time on impeachment, New York might not have been “so completely unprepared for the invisible enemy.”
Schumer’s qualms came after Trump invoked the Defense Production Act — which gives the government more control during emergencies to direct industrial production — last week to compel General Motors to produce more ventilators for increasing coronavirus hospitalizations, and named White House trade adviser Peter Navarro as the act’s policy coordinator for the federal government.
Speaking to CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday night, Schumer described his plans to call on Trump to name a new point person for management of the Defense Production Act and disparaged Navarro.
Navarro “is not up to the job,” Schumer said. “He’s a very nice man, but he has had no experience doing things like this, and they have no one, that I can best tell, in charge of the distribution.”
He called on the administration to select “one person, a military person, a general who knows how to deal with logistics and order mastering, who knows command and control.”
That person should be “in charge of both production and distribution of all the kinds of needed equipment and get it to the places that need it and have shortages,” Schumer said, recommending that Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, select a candidate for the role.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the number of deaths from coronavirus in New York state as of Thursday night.