Whitmer, Cuomo call for inquiry by Congress into Trump’s COVID response

Lansing — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called Thursday for a congressional oversight investigation into President Donald Trump’s “politicization of government functions” during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Democratic governors, who have frequently clashed with the Republican president, released a statement calling for the inquiry 40 days before the Nov. 3 election. Whitmer is a national co-chair of the presidential campaign of Joe Biden, who had made Trump’s response to the pandemic a major issue in recent weeks. 

“The unprecedented and unacceptable scale of this tragedy is the direct result of President Trump and the federal government’s deceit, political self-dealing and incompetence,” the joint statement said.

Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that she will allocate nearly $65 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars to Michigan school districts, higher education institutions, and other education-related entities that have been most significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. House of Representatives is run by the Democrats, while Republicans control the U.S. Senate.

The nation’s COVID-19 death toll hit 200,000 this week. The number of new cases being reported each day across the country is lower this week than in July and August but has begun moving upward, according to tracking by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The statement by Cuomo and Whitmer cited the CDC’s posting guidance in August that COVID-19 testing isn’t necessary for people who don’t have symptoms but have been in contact with others with the virus. It also mentioned the agency apparently altered its position recently on the airborne transmission of the virus and how easily it might spread.

Cuomo and Whitmer said it’s “increasingly clear that the president and his advisers are trying to undermine the credibility of experts whose facts run counter to the administration’s political agenda.”

They called for an investigation into the Trump administration’s response, including actions at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Postal Service.

Trump has repeatedly called on governors, like Cuomo and Whitmer, to “open” up their states during the pandemic. During a Monday rally in Swanton, Ohio, the president contended without evidence that Democrats would reopen their states on Nov. 4, the day after the presidential election.

“We’re rounding the turn on the pandemic. Vaccines are coming soon,” Trump told the crowd.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it was seeking “COVID-19 data” from Whitmer, Cuomo and two other Democratic governor as it examines executive orders during the pandemic that “may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents.”

“Cuomo and Whitmer, the architects of deadly nursing home policies that killed countless seniors, calling for an investigation into anyone but themselves, is laughable,” tweeted Chris Gustafson, spokesman for Trump’s campaign in Michigan.

On Wednesday, Robert Gordon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said the state is “not done with” COVID-19 and is facing “increasing risk” as schools and universities reopen for classes this fall.

cmauger@detroitnews.com