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Lawmakers clash over whether Trump impeachment trial distracted government's coronavirus response

Lawmakers clash over whether Trump impeachment trial distracted ...

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., hit back at Senate Major Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., over his claims that the Democrat-led impeachment of President Trump distracted the federal government from handling the coronavirus outbreak during the nascent days of the pandemic.
Pelosi accused Trump and McConnell of using impeachment as “an excuse” for why the administration was slow to respond to the threat the contagion posed to the United States.
"I think that's an admission that perhaps the President and the majority leader cannot handle the job," Pelosi told CNN's Anderson Cooper in an interview. "We have a life and death situation in our country and they should not try to hide behind an excuse for why they did not take action, but it does admit that they did not take action.”
She added: “Right now, we have to work together to get the job done.”
Pelosi’s response comes after McConnell told radio host Hugh Hewitt that the first reports of the outbreak in China surfaced while Trump’s impeachment trial was occurring in the Senate and dominating news coverage.
“It came up while we were tied down on the impeachment trial," McConnell said. "And I think it diverted the attention of the government, because everything every day was all about impeachment.”
A former McConnell aide, John Ashbrook, also pointed out on Twitter that the first reported case of COVID-19 in the U.S. occurred on the same day that House Democrats brought articles of impeachment to the Senate after Pelosi held off on moving forward on impeachment for weeks.
Asked about the impeachment trial in regards to the country’s handling of the coronavirus, Trump said that impeachment "probably did" distract him from confronting the crisis sooner.
"I think I handled it very well, but I guess it probably did (distract me)," Trump said yesterday during a briefing with the White House coronavirus task force. "I mean, I got impeached. I think, you know, I certainly devoted a little time to thinking about it."
He added:  "Did it divert my attention? I think I'm getting A+'s for the way I handled myself during a phony impeachment... But certainly, I guess, I thought of it and I think I probably acted -- I don't think I would have done any better had I not been impeached, OK?"
Trump, however, has been criticized for initially downplaying the virus, comparing it to the flu and for his more recent comments that restrictions on work and travel could be lifted by mid-April, arguing that the response to the virus shouldn’t be worse than the health crisis itself. The president has since made an about-face on both those statements and extended federal social guidelines for at least another 30 days.
“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead,” Trump said during a press conference where public health officials noted that up to 240,000 Americans could die from coronavirus even if strict social distancing measures are maintained.

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