President Donald Trump repeatedly criticized Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan during his White House coronavirus briefing Monday, saying over and over that Hogan “didn’t really understand” the federal testing capacity and that he “needed more knowledge.”
“He didn’t know about the federal labs,” Trump said about Hogan. “He could’ve called [Vice President] Mike Pence and saved a lot of money but that’s OK.”
Hogan announced earlier Monday that he had secured 500,000 coronavirus testing kits from South Korea, largely because federal officials told governors the states were on their own.
As Trump’s White House briefing continued, Hogan went on CNN, where he told host Wolf Blitzer that governors have been looking for tests “wherever they can find it” domestically and internationally. And it was only because the president made clear that “the governors need to go out and get their own testing,” he said.
The back-and-forth between the governor and president — both Republicans — played out on national television, and it represented an escalation in tensions between the two men.
Hogan, who serves as chair of the National Governors Association, has mostly avoided direct criticism of the president even as frustrations have mounted among governors who can’t get supplies and tests. He’s walked a fine line between advocating for the governors while not alienating the president.
And Trump had not, until now, blasted Hogan directly.
Asked by a reporter about Hogan securing tests from South Korea, Pence and Brett P. Giroir, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said they were surprised to hear about it. Pence said Hogan made no mention of it during a phone call with the nation’s governors earlier Monday and said at the briefing he would “follow back up” with the Maryland governor.
Giroir said there is excess testing capacity across the nation every day and said that if Hogan wanted more testing, he could’ve just asked and it could “be done tomorrow.”
Trump struck a much harsher tone than Pence and Giroir, saying Hogan was wasting money and needed more knowledge to make decisions.
“I don’t think he needed to go to South Korea," Trump said. "I think he needed to get a little knowledge. Would have been helpful.”
Trump opened the briefing by saying some governors, including Hogan, didn’t understand the list despite it being “pretty simple.” He said that labs have “tremendous capacity.”
“He didn’t understand too much about what was going on, so now I think he’ll be able to do that,” Trump said, without using Hogan’s name. “We hope to be able to help [Hogan] out. We’ll work with him and work with all of the governors.”
But as the nearly two-hour briefing continued, Trump doubled down on his statements and continued to harp on Hogan’s actions. He said it was “really obvious” to those listening to Monday’s call with the governors that Hogan “didn’t know about the federal labs.”
“If he did know about it, he would’ve been happy,” Trump said.
Hogan, speaking to CNN’s Blitzer, said he wasn’t sure what the president was talking about.
“I have a pretty good understanding of what’s going on and I appreciate the information that was provided by his team," Hogan said during the interview. “But he wasn’t there. I’m not sure what he was trying to say.”
At the end of the briefing, reporters shouted various questions asking about Trump’s scathing comments about Hogan as the president left the room, leaving them unanswered.
Afterward, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden issued a statement condemning Trump’s remarks.
“The administration’s response on testing has been so slow, and so ineffective, that the governor of Maryland — a Republican — had to turn to South Korea to get badly needed tests,” Biden said. “Think about that: a governor had to turn to a country halfway around the world for aid because he couldn’t rely on timely help from a president and a White House that sits just miles from his state’s border.”