Sanders blasts Trump for picking 'completely unqualified' Pence for coronavirus response

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE (I-Vt.) slammed the Trump administration for picking Vice President Pence to lead the response to the coronavirus outbreak. 

“Concern about the coronavirus continues to grow, yet the Trump administration’s response has been inadequate, misleading, and dangerous,” Sanders said in a statement Thursday.

“By picking Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePence posts, deletes photo of Trump campaign staff without face masks, not social distancing Pence threatens to deploy military if Pennsylvania governor doesn’t quell looting Pence on Floyd: ‘No tolerance for racism’ in US MORE to lead the administration’s response to the pandemic, Trump has not only chosen someone completely unqualified, but the president has made clear that he’s more concerned about his own politics than the health and safety of the country.”

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Sanders said the Trump administration must replace Pence with an expert on pandemics and disaster response. 

Pence’s office was tasked with overseeing the federal response to the disease. His office was also given authority over media response and messaging on the coronavirus, a person familiar with the arrangement confirmed Thursday. 

Pence tapped longtime health official and ambassador-at-large Debbie Birx to serve as the White House coronavirus response coordinator. 

In addition to blasting Pence as “unqualified” to lead the effort, Sanders said the response team should be staffed with experts and scientists, hitting Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinThe Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says country needs to rethink what ‘policing’ means; US cases surpass 2 million with no end to pandemic in sight The Hill’s Morning Report – Treasury, Fed urge more spending, lending to ease COVID-19 wreckage Minnesota AG Keith Ellison says racism is a bigger problem than police behavior; 21 states see uptick in cases amid efforts to reopen MORE and White House economic adviser Larry KudlowLawrence (Larry) Alan KudlowMORE as “political cronies, not scientists.” 

Mnuchin and Kudlow, as well as Surgeon General Jerome Adams, were also announced as members of the White House coronavirus task force. 

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“We need a president who does not play politics with our health and national security,” Sanders said. 

He also called on Trump to sign the $8.5 billion coronavirus response funding proposed by Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerOvernight Health Care: US showing signs of retreat in battle against COVID-19 | Regeneron begins clinical trials of potential coronavirus antibody treatment | CMS warns nursing homes against seizing residents’ stimulus checks Schumer requests briefing with White House coronavirus task force as cases rise Schumer on Trump’s tweet about 75-year-old protester: He ‘should go back to hiding in the bunker’ MORE (D-N.Y.). 

A White House official directed The Hill to the Trump campaign for comment. An official for the campaign was not immediately available for comment.

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