President Donald Trump was up early Saturday morning taking credit for sending a few ventilators to Colorado and thanking all the people in the state who allegedly sent him “thank you” notes for his benevolence. He also tagged Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican up for a tough reelection race this year, who he has previously credited for helping with the ventilator acquisition.
But as the Denver Post has pointed out, thanks to Trump, the state actually got 400 fewer ventilators than it would have if the administration hadn’t meddled in its procurement process.
In early April, Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, had arranged for the state to buy 500 ventilators when the Federal Emergency Management Agency grabbed the shipment instead. Polis complained to the Post that the federal government was leaving the state high and dry. “We can’t compete against our own federal government,” Polis said. “So either work with us, or don’t do anything at all. But this middle ground where they’re buying stuff out from under us and not telling us what we’re going to get, that’s really challenging to manage our hospital surge and our safety of our health care workers in that kind of environment.”
A few days later, Trump tweeted that he was sending Colorado 100 ventilators thanks to a request from Gardner, despite the fact that Polis had been begging the feds for weeks for more medical supplies. The move was among the first of many indicating that the Trump administration was playing politics with medical supplies during the pandemic. As the Denver Post editorial board wrote:
The federal government should be procuring medicine, masks, and ventilators and distributing them to states on a set formula based on population, rate of infection and need. Instead, Trump’s messaging makes it feel as though he will watch with glee from the White House as people suffer in states being led by his enemies.
Members of Congress have demanded more information from FEMA about such order seizures and whether the distribution of masks and ventilators has been dictated by political considerations rather than need. But Trump doesn’t seem too worried about appearances. On Saturday morning, he doubled down on his earlier comments, claiming that Coloradans were so grateful they were showering him with thank you notes for the ventilator delivery:
Thank you to the people of Colorado for the warm and gracious notes and letters sent to me for all of the Ventilators we got for you. It was my great honor! @SenCoryGardner
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 25, 2020