On MSNBC Schumer Slams President Trump’s Firing Of Intelligence Community IG And Renews Call For Appointment Of Top Military Officer To Oversee Both Production And Distribution Of Medical Equipment And Supplies To Help Fight Coronavirus

April 4, 2020

New York, N.Y.  – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today in an interview with Alicia Menendez on MSNBC strongly criticized President Trump’s firing of the Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson and renewed his call for the Trump administration to appoint a top military official to lead the federal government’s production and distribution effort to get equipment and medical supplies to the frontline health care workers and first responders who need them. Below is a transcript of Leader Schumer’s MSNBC interview.

ALICIA: President Trump is firing Michael Atkinson. Atkinson, you may remember, is the man who flagged the whistle-blower complaint that eventually led to the president's impeachment. He deemed the complaint an urgent concern, that he was required by law to relay to congress. For more on this development, I would like to bring in Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer of New York. Senator Schumer, thank you for your time. The president said it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspectors General. That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General. Your response? 
SEN. SCHUMER: We've had a great tradition in America that patriots speak truth to power. They tell them the truth and America has been a nation of truth. This president has turned that inside out. When you tell him the truth, he fires you. Whether it is Mr. Atkinson, or the captain of the aircraft carrier a few days ago, Colonel Vindman, and so many others. And let me just say in terms of our intelligence agencies, they don't make movies about them the way they do about the men and women in our armed forces, because what they do is secret. They risk their lives and do so much to keep America safe. And to politicize it and just say that somebody who was protecting that agency as Adkinson did should be fired because he told the truth, it's a dark page in American history.
ALICIA: What more do you see Congress doing in order to protect those who cooperated with the impeachment hearings? 
SEN. SCHUMER: Well, we're trying our best. It's the House more than the Senate because we're in the minority. But I know they're trying their best to protect them. 
ALICIA: Let's talk a little bit about COVID-19, currently ravaging your statement and the need for protective equipment and the national stockpile. You're now calling for the president to appoint a senior military officer to oversee the production and distribution of critical equipment. How would that change the process that is currently in place? 
SEN. SCHUMER: Well, first the process is not working. Just in the last day I've heard police officers can't get masks, nurses and health care workers who can't get the PPE, the protective equipment, hospitals have said they can't get the ventilators. Our mayor and governor are both doing excellent jobs. They have to spend time on the phone calling private companies and begging for this kind of equipment. So it's not working at all, what the administration is doing is not working. There is a very good answer, Alicia. It's called the Defense Production Act that was passed by President Truman during the Korean War and it allows our military to mobilize the production of needed resources, as well as the supply lines, but also the distribution to send them immediately to where they're needed, New York would now be at the top of that list. And I am urging the president to invoke the Defense Production Act and put in place a military person who has real stature, and the military folks know how to do quartermastering. They know command and control. They know logistics. And this person should have the full backing of the president. No politics, just go do your job, General or Admiral, and make sure that we produce the materials and get them where they're needed. And I say this to the people not in New York or New Jersey, the epicenters right now. It's going to come to you. And if we don't have this system in place, you're going to find the same shortages of equipment, of tests. I spoke to one of my colleagues in Michigan and they said one of the hospitals doesn't have swabs which they need to do the testing. So we need this to happen and happen immediately. The good news is that I mentioned this to the president a week and a half ago, he said he would do it. At a press conference he backtracked. I talked to him yesterday. People know the outcome of that. Last night I spoke to both Vice President Pence and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. I spoke to them for a while about how this was so needed to get the supplies we need to fight this awful virus to the places where they're needed and they took it seriously and said they would get back to me. I hope they can convince the president to do this, because this is vital. If we don't do it, lives will be lost, the disease will linger longer, our economy will be much worse. 
ALICIA: Senator, already three relief packages, we know that there is one more focused on health care. What do you say to those who worry that the existing packages did not go far enough, did not do enough? 
SEN. SCHUMER: Well, they were a great start. We Democrats resisted the Republicans and we did two watch words, workers first, not corporations, and a Marshall Plan for hospitals, nursing homes, our health care infrastructure, The clinic and the CHCs. So it's a very good bill. It's $2 trillion. But we never expected it to cover all of the issues needed and as this crisis looks worse and worse, we're going to have to do more and think in big and bold ways. Anyone who thinks this is the last package, I think, is in Neverland. We're going to get a larger package, a bolder package to follow up on the good work that was with done in COVID-3. 
ALICIA: Senator, we're going to hear from the Coronavirus Task Force at about 3:30 today. What is the number one thing you expect to hear, want to hear from that task force today? 
SEN. SCHUMER: Well, the number one need we have in New York are all of these supplies, whether it's masks, whether it's swabs, whether it's ventilators, whether it's protective equipment or other things. I hope I would hear from this task force that they recommend to the president to invoke the DPA. That's the quickest, most effective way to do it. Our military know how to do this. They do it in times of war. Let’s face it, this in a very real sense is a time of war. 
ALICIA: All right, Senator Schumer, thank you so much for your time. 
SEN. SCHUMER: Nice to talk to you.