During a briefing at the White House by his Coronavirus Task Force on Monday, Trump was asked questions by several reporters about the report published that day by Christi Grimm, the principal deputy inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services. The report surveyed 323 hospitals between March 23 and March 27 and found widespread shortages of testing supplies and personal protective equipment, long waits for the results of COVID-19 tests and difficulties expanding their capacities to help additional patients.
“It’s just wrong,” Trump said. “Did I hear the word ‘inspector general?’ Really? It’s wrong, and they’ll talk to you about it. It’s wrong.”
A reporter pressed the question, noting the report came “from your own government.”
“Well, where did he come from, the inspector general? What’s his name? Find me his name, let me know. If you find me his name I’d appreciate it. All I can tell you is this: we put up on the board - you’re going to ask the admiral,” Trump said, referring to Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir.
“But sir, these are hospitals who say that they’re waiting a week or longer to get their test results,” she asked. “Why is this still taking so long?”
“Give me the name of the inspector general,” Trump said. “Could politics be entered into that?”
After Trump moved on, other reporters soon returned to the question of the IG report, telling him the name of the inspector general and reiterating that her report was based on a survey of hundreds of US hospitals.
"It still could be her opinion. When was she appointed?” Trump asked. “The point is, we are doing an incredible job on testing, we are doing a better job than anyone in the world right now on testing. There’s nobody close … Let me know when she was appointed, would you?”
Giroir’s answer was more informative, but no less condemnatory of the IG report for that.
“As the president said, 1.79 million tests have been done, and this does not count the hundreds of thousands of tests that are done within hospitals that are now currently not reporting, so I’m sure we’re well over 2 million,” Giroir told the reporters.
“That inspector general report was done here, on 23rd and 24th, during our ramp-up period, quite a long time ago. There was clearly, and it’s hard to interpret the report, because it mixes up all kinds of things, but clearly there was complaints by some hospitals of a backlog, probably that sent out tests, and that is true: there were several days of backlog at some of the major labs that have been taken care of.”
“I don’t know the inspector general, I don’t know that person, I’ll tell you one thing I have a problem with: if there was such a problem that she knew about - her or he knew about - on March 23rd and 24th, why did I find out about the tests from them on the news media at 8 o’clock this morning? If there was a problem, I think you’re ethically obliged to tell me where that is so we can interact with it like I do every single day. So, that’s a discussion for the future,” Giroir said.
Trump then asked the reporters: “How long has that person been in government?”
“She did serve in the previous administration,” responded Jonathan Karl, the chief White House correspondent for ABC News. Trump’s reply was furious.
“Oh, you didn’t tell me that! Oh, I see. You didn’t tell me that, John … You mean the Obama administration. Thank you for telling me that. See, there’s a typical ‘fake news’ deal. You’re a third-rate reporter, and what you just said is a disgrace, OK? … Thank you very much, John, thank you very much. You will never make it.”