WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump has called his predecessor Barack Obama an “incompetent president” following Obama’s criticism of the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Obama told college graduates in a live-streamed speech on Saturday that “this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they're doing." He did not mention anyone by name.
Asked about the remark on Sunday, Trump said: "Look, he was an incompetent president, that's all I can say. Grossly incompetent."
The United States has become the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, with about 1.5 million confirmed cases and 90,000 deaths. Critics have accused the administration of exacerbating the situation by ignoring the gravity of the outbreak in the crucial early weeks.
Earlier Sunday, the top U.S. health official rejected the charge that the government had failed its people.
"It could have been vastly, vastly worse," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told CNN. He said the United States over the last two months was "able to flatten the curve" of the number of coronavirus cases in order to give health care workers a chance to deal with the onslaught of patients needing care.
Trump said on Twitter, "Doing REALLY well, medically, on solving the CoronaVirus situation (Plague!). It will happen!"
Doing REALLY well, medically, on solving the CoronaVirus situation (Plague!). It will happen!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 17, 2020
On his return from a weekend visit to the Camp David presidential retreat outside of Washington, Trump declared, “We did a lot of terrific meetings. Tremendous progress is being made on many fronts, including coming up with a cure for this horrible plague that has beset our country.”
He also called into a charity golf tournament broadcast, saying Americans want live sports to return, saying they are necessary “in terms of the psyche of our country.” With professional leagues trying to figure out how games might be played, including without any fans in attendance, Trump said there is a desire for “big stadiums loaded with people.”
“Right now, that’s not what they’re planning, but you never know. Things can happen very quickly,” Trump said.
The president has scheduled more discussions with governors and industry leaders for Monday on conditions to reopen the country and ensure a steady supply of food and other goods and services, despite projections that the U.S. coronavirus death toll would reach 147,000 by August.
The shutdowns threaten to push the U.S. economy into recession and unemployment has reached historically high levels, with one-quarter of the country’s work force losing jobs.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Sunday that additional job losses are likely through June. In an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" news program, Powell said the economic recovery will take a long time and U.S. businesses and families will need three to six more months of government financial support. He also emphasized the importance of preventing another outbreak for the economic recovery.
"If we are thoughtful and careful about how we reopen the economy so that people take these social distancing measures forward and try to do what we can not to have another outbreak...then the recovery can begin fairly soon," Powell said. He urged Americans to help each other by respecting social distancing, washing their hands and wearing masks.
Most of the country's 50 states are beginning to relax restrictions on businesses, while urging residents to continue keeping a social distance of at least two meters between people, wearing masks in public, and avoiding large groups.