Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak was ‘almost criminal’, says Biden

Presumptive election opponent claims president knows the virus is returning

Matt Viser
Sunday 14 June 2020 15:05
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Biden says Trump was 'paralysed with fear' by protests and 'hid in bunker'

Joe Biden ratcheted up some of his criticism of Donald Trump on Friday, saying that his handling of the coronavirus was “almost criminal”, that he has “bungled” the economic fallout, and that he has exacerbated racial tensions in the country.

During an hour-long town hall with the labour union AFSCME, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee warned that the US will likely see a resurgence of the coronavirus and that Mr Trump is not doing enough to prepare.

“This is almost criminal, the way he's handled this,” Mr Biden said of Mr Trump's leadership on the coronavirus. “There's going to be some form of second wave, I hate to tell you this,” he added later.

Mr Biden said Mr Trump's approach has led to more Americans deaths and a slower economic recovery.

“Donald Trump has bungled everything,” he said. “He's bungled us into the worst job crisis in over a century.”

Mr Biden also attacked the president for his focus on reopening.

“You have Trump saying, 'Open up, open up, open up.' Why do you want to open up?” Mr Biden said. “He does not care about the public health. He wants to open up because he wants to say the economy's growing and the stock market's going up.”

Mr Trump's campaign defended him from the criticism, saying: “Biden has been lobbing ineffective partisan bombs from his basement, trying to undermine confidence in the federal response, and has sought relevance where there is none.”

“Voters know that president Trump built the American economy to unprecedented heights before it was artificially interrupted and he will do it again,” said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign. “As the record 2.5 million jobs created in May prove, the Great American Comeback is already underway.”

On Friday, Mr Biden also criticised Senate Republicans, saying they need to pass the Heroes Act, which would provide another round of federal funding. “They're so damn stupid,” he said.

Mr Biden, a longtime senator known for strong bipartisan relationships, does not typically go after Republican congress members in such stark terms.

Later on Friday, Mr Biden said in a statement that he supports renaming military installations named after Confederate leaders and that he would do so within three years of taking office.

Mr Trump this week said the names of military bases should stay as they are.

Mr Biden also criticised Mr Trump for holding a rally next week and requiring attendees to sign a waiver that they will not sue if they are later diagnosed with coronavirus. The rally was initially scheduled to take place on Juneteenth, a day that celebrates the end of slavery, before being pushed back to the following day.

“Did you hear what he just did? He's having a rally on Juneteenth,” Mr Biden said. “All the people coming have to sign a piece of paper saying if they get Covid in this, they will not sue the campaign. I mean, c'mon man.”

Referencing the waiver again later in the remarks, Mr Biden said it showed that Mr Trump knows that the virus is returning.

“He knows it's a problem. But he's not doing a damn thing about it,” Mr Biden said.

Mr Biden this week outlined an eight-part plan to reopen the economy while responding to the coronavirus. In it, he proposed more widespread testing funded by the federal government.

He also wants the government to build a new health-care workforce, hiring 100,000 new workers to perform contact tracing. Their jobs would later shift towards other health-care problems.

“That's the only way short of a vaccine we're going to get this under control,” he said. “We have to make sure when someone catches the virus you're able to test and trace where it came from to be able to quarantine so it doesn't spread.”

While answering questions, Mr Biden also raised the racial unrest in the past few weeks, after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis after a police officer put his knee on his neck for nearly 9 minutes.

“Look, I'm a white guy,” Mr Biden said. “I've been involved in the civil rights movement. I think I understand, but I can't possibly understand what it's like to be a black man, walking down the street wondering whether or not I'm just going to be, you know - it's one thing to talk about everyone being created equal in America. Well guess what? The question is whether everybody can be treated equally.”

Mr Biden cited housing disparities along racial lines. A home in a white neighbourhood like his, he said, is valued 23 per cent higher than an identical home in a predominantly black neighbourhood.

“How the hell do you build equity in your home and pass on equity to your family?” he asked. “That's how most Americans gain equity.”

The Washington Post

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