A Monday report from POLITICO spotlights an alleged Republican movement to push the blame for the White House's purportedly bungled coronavirus response on the impeachment proceedings which took center stage in Congress for the better part of December and January.
According to the piece, only a few senators were raising the alarm on coronavirus in January, when Democrats presented their evidence that President Donald Trump should be removed from office during the Senate trials. One such lawmaker was Republican Tom Cotton, who POLITICO reported attempted to push the White House to ban travel from China. He also allegedly spoke with Trump and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and warned them about the virus, which at the time was ravaging China.
"The initial thought from the Dems, I think, is that we were trying to distract from impeachment," a Republican Senate aide said of the Democratic response to COVID-19.
According to Cotton, the proceedings impeded the initial coronavirus response.
"It's unfortunate that during the early days of a global pandemic, the Senate was paralyzed by a partisan impeachment trial," he said.
"The entire executive branch was consumed by impeachment, and it totally distracted Congress, too," another Senate GOP aide said, appearing to support Cotton's sentiments.Not long after these early warnings from Republican Senators, Democrats reportedly began to sound the alarm, which prompted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to call on the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the coronavirus a public health emergency. It would be weeks later, on March 13, that Trump would declare a national emergency, two days after the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed the virus a pandemic.
"The impeachment trial ended Feb. 5 with Trump's acquittal, and Cotton and other Republicans insist the process distracted lawmakers and the president — but Democrats disagree, saying the House wasn't even briefed on the virus until the Senate trial was over," Travis Gettys wrote in Raw Story of the Republican narrative covered in the POLITICO report.
According to POLITICO, many Democrats are pushing back against the narrative linking the impeachment trial with COVID-19, noting that the House didn't receive a full briefing on the virus until after the conclusion of the Senate trial. In addition, Republicans have faced accusations of downplaying the threat of the disease both in public and behind closed doors.
As the publication notes, Democrats pushed for emergency coronavirus funds on February 5, on the last day of impeachment, while GOP senators continued to back Trump's claim that the virus was being contained. Curiously, some of these same Senators were allegedly dumping their stocks in private.