ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo embarked on a 20-minute stemwinder during his press briefing Friday, hitting back on a series of presidential tweets accusing him of overreacting to the coronavirus pandemic.
Cuomo, who has for weeks said he doesn’t want to fight President Donald Trump, couldn’t resist lobbing a few verbal grenades after Trump tweeted during Cuomo’s Friday appearance that the governor “should spend more time ‘doing’ and less time ‘complaining.’”
Trump said that federal help to build hospital bed capacity and provide additional ventilators has proven unnecessary and that Cuomo has not been appreciative of his help.
Cuomo, who has styled himself as a governor of “action,” responded that if Trump is watching his televised press event “maybe he should get up and go to work, right?”
Cuomo said the federal help he requested has been based on White House projections for the state’s medical needs and suggested Trump hasn’t read any of the reports his administration has issued through the Centers for Disease Control and the White House coronavirus task force.
“If you want to point fingers — we built more beds than we needed — our only mistake was believing your numbers, believing your projections,” Cuomo said, suggesting Trump use his reality TV catchphrase “You’re fired” to can CDC and coronavirus task force officials for botching their own projections.
“Whose projections were wrong? Head of the CDC, Peter Navarro and head of the White House coronavirus task force. Fire them all. That’s what I say. Fire them,” Cuomo said. “You know that show the president did?”
Cuomo insisted he’s been complimentary of the president’s quick responses to outfit the Javits Center and USNS Comfort with medical capacity, even though the two facilities have taken in fewer than expected patients due to both logistical issues and fewer hospitalizations than predicted. In late March, Cuomo said the state might need more than 100,000 hospital beds during the peak number of infections. That surge never came, and on Monday, there were 17,316 New Yorkers currently hospitalized
“I don’t know, what am I supposed to send a bouquet of flowers?” Cuomo said.
Trump did a “very graceful 180” when he went from saying he had total authority to reopen the nation’s economy to instead saying states would form their own plans, Cuomo said mockingly.
“By the way, it was always up to the states, what are you going to grant me what the Constitution gave me before you were born?” he said. “I don’t need the president of the United States to tell me that I’m governor and I don’t need the president of the United States to tell me the powers of a state. “
Trump’s really “doing nothing” in his acknowledgment of states’ power, Cuomo continued.
“All he’s doing is walking in front of the parade, but he has nothing to do with the timing of the parade,” he said. “Governors are going to open when they need to open. “
Cuomo went on, and several times returned from questions on other topics, to criticize a lack of federal funding that he predicts will become more urgent as states will need to ramp up testing in their individual quests to decide how and when to open their economies.
Cuomo did not give a specific number for how much he’d like for New York, but pointed to a request last week to Congress from the National Governors Association, of which he is vice chair, for $500 billion to stabilize states’ economic losses that would be distributed by need.
New York has received millions of dollars from the federal stimulus packages, but Cuomo has complained those funds can only be used to fight the virus rather than plug deepening revenue holes. Cuomo’s administration has predicted as much as $15 billion in lost revenue for the state.
His remarks follow a report from the state’s comptroller Tom DiNapoli this week warning he doesn’t know how New York will scrape by without federal assistance. Budget director Robert Mujica confirmed during Friday’s briefing that “there will be reductions” in significant state spending areas without additional federal aid.
When asked about the notable tone shift after weeks of saying there’s no time to play politics, Cuomo said he’s trying to get a message to the president.
“This is an important moment. [Trump] doesn’t want to provide funding to the states and he doesn’t want to help with testing,” Cuomo said. “I don’t care about his politics, but if we don’t have federal help on testing, that’s a real problem.”