WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR/AP) — President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he is instructing his administration to withhold funding for the World Health Organization while the White House investigates the organization’s role in how it handled the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Trump alleges “mismanaging” and “covering up” by the WHO on the virus’ spread.
America provides between $400 and $500 million to the WHO annually, the president said. Trump added China contributes roughly $40 million to the organization per year.
“As the organization’s leading sponsor, the United States has a duty to insist on full accountability,” he said. “One of the most dangerous and costly decisions from the WHO was its disastrous decision to oppose travel restrictions from China and other nations.”
The president added the WHO’s response put “political correctness above life-saving measures.”
Trump used a portion of Monday’s briefing to reply to criticism his administration did not address the virus early enough.
Later, the president defended his statement the office of the presidency is the only entity with the authority to say when to reopen the country.
Trump claimed the “total” authority to decide how and when to reopen the economy after weeks of tough social distancing guidelines aimed at fighting the new coronavirus. But governors from both parties were quick to push back, noting they have primary responsibility for ensuring public safety in their states and would decide when it’s safe to begin a return to normal operations.
Trump would not offer specifics about the source of his asserted power, which he claimed, despite constitutional limitations, was absolute.
“When somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total,” Trump said Monday at the White House. “The governors know that.”
The comments came not long after Democratic leaders in the Northeast and along the West Coast announced separate state compacts to coordinate their efforts to scale back stay-at-home orders or reopen businesses on their own timetables.
Anxious to put the crisis behind him, Trump has been discussing with senior aides how to roll back federal social distancing recommendations that expire at the end of the month.
While Trump has issued national recommendations advising people stay home, it has been governors and local leaders who have instituted mandatory restrictions, including shuttering schools and closing nonessential businesses. Some of those orders carry fines or other penalties, and in some jurisdictions they extend into the early summer.