Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that he was wrong to claim former President Barack Obama didn’t leave a “game plan” to deal with a pandemic when he left the White House to President Donald Trump.
“I was wrong,” McConnell told Fox News’ Bret Baier. “They did leave behind a plan, so I clearly made a mistake in that regard. As to whether or not the plan was followed, or who’s the critic and all the rest, I don’t have any observation about that because I don’t know enough about the details.”
The senator sparked controversy earlier this week during an online interview with Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law and campaign adviser, when he went after the Obama administration’s handover to Trump’s team. He also lambasted the former president for criticizing in a private meeting Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 1.4 million people in the U.S., saying Obama had been “a little bit classless” and “should’ve kept his mouth shut.”
“They claim pandemics only happen once every hundred years, but what if that’s no longer true?” McConnell said during the interview. “We want to be early, ready for the next one, because clearly the Obama administration did not leave to this administration any kind of game plan for something like this.”
In fact, Politico reported in March that the Obama White House did leave a detailed, 69-page document on fighting pandemics that included a bevy of measures the administration should have taken amid early reports a new viral pathogen was spreading overseas. At the time, a National Security Council official told Politico the document was “quite dated” and said the administration’s own efforts were “a better fit” and “more detailed.”
Trump has been criticized by some for being slow to respond to the virus as it first began to spread in the United States, but he has lashed out at those claims, instead seeking to blame Obama, the World Health Organization and even his own medical advisers.
Ronald Klain, the former “Ebola czar” in the Obama administration, challenged McConnell’s comments earlier this week, writing on Twitter that the Trump administration had “ignored” the playbook that was passed along to them. Obama’s team also led an in-person pandemic response exercise for senior Trump officials, as required by law, during the presidential transition.
In his interview with Fox News on Thursday, McConnell went on to champion efforts to reopen parts of the country despite the ongoing spread of the virus.
“We had a fabulous economy … we’d like the American people to begin to benefit from a comeback as soon as possible,” he said, while noting states should follow the three-phase plan released by the White House last month. “We have to begin to engage the economy again. I’m convinced that we can do that safely.”
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