On 'The View': Schumer slams Trump, McConnell for coronavirus response

Schumer warned against moving too fast on reopening the country.

May 21, 2020, 12:27 PM

In an appearance on ABC's "The View," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.-NY, called President Trump "reckless" for announcing he is taking the drug hydroxychloroquine to prevent a coronavirus infection.

"If there were people watching, in particularly, people who might like him and listen to him and they have the illness and instead of going to the doctor and getting the proper care, they took hydroxychloroquine, that could hurt their recovery, and even worse, the FDA, our federal agency has said hydroxychloroquine, particularly in older people can cause heart arrhythmia, strokes and other things likes that," Schumer told The View's Sunny Hostin in a wide-ranging interview that touched on tensions on Capitol Hill, the disparate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and mail-in-voting, among other topics.

The FDA last month specifically warned against taking hydroxychloroquine "outside of a hospital setting or a clinical trial due to risk of heart rhythm problems."

President Trump said he asked the White House doctor if he could take the unproven treatment despite having no symptoms, adding he's been taking a pill a day for about a week and a half.

"I'm still fine," he said, referring to possible dangerous side effects.

As the search for a treatment and vaccine goes on, all 50 states across America have taken steps to re-open, but Schumer warned against moving too fast.

"I understand the anguish of people who want to get back. I understand people who are out of work and want to get to work," Schumer said. "But people have to understand that if we move too quickly, this could come back. Dr. Fauci himself said it. This could come back with a vengeance and be even worse than it was the first time around. So you have to have a balance."

In recent days, Schumer has frequently taken to the Senate floor to criticize Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for not taking up more emergency coronavirus aid legislation.

"He's in an alternative universe, unfortunately," Schumer said of McConnell on Thursday. "When you look at the TV stations and the news and you see miles of people lined up in cars to go to food pantries and the news media interviews them and they say, I've never had to do this before, but I need to feed my family."

Schumer criticizes McConnell's response to the coronavirus crisis

Schumer compared McConnell to President Herbert Hoover, who has been historically criticized for his slow response to the beginning of the Great Depression.

Schumer made a prediction that pressure from the American people who need more aid will force McConnell to the negotiating table.

"One of the big pieces is help your local governments. What does that mean? It's policemen, it's firefighters, it's bus drivers. It's health care workers. ... These people are all going to be fired and lose their jobs through no fault of their own," Schumer told The View's Joy Behar.

The criticism echoed comments Schumer made earlier in the week.

"Here, it’s business as usual. Leader McConnell has spent three weeks of the Senate’s time largely on nominations, only one of whom is directly related to COVID-19. Not one bill on the floor of the Senate having to do with COVID-19 in the entire month of May. The leader has put none on the floor," Schumer said in a speech Wednesday.

House Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have drafted another emergency aid package called The HEROES Act. The bill is more than 1800 pages and includes another round of $1200 stimulus payments, aid for state and local governments, hazard pay for workers on the frontlines, and extension of unemployment benefits.

PHOTO: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 20, 2020.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 20, 2020.
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

McConnell has shut down the suggestion of passing another large emergency aid bill through the Senate, saying lawmakers should wait and see how effective the CARES Act and the subsequent replenishment of the PPP program are before spending more money and further increasing the federal debt.

In the meantime, the House will vote next week on a smaller bill to extend the 8-week loan period for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provides forgivable loans to small businesses who use the money for payroll, rent, and other qualifying expenses.

A group of bipartisan senators is scrambling today to possibly secure agreement on that matter, offering a glimpse of possible bicameral cooperation. The push is being led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R.-Fla.).

PHOTO: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to the press after a meeting with Republican Senators in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, May 19, 2020.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to the press after a meeting with Republican Senators in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, May 19, 2020.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“We are hearing of course now from a lot of small businesses who got PPP loans but are saying to us, that they can’t spend all the money on payroll — 75 percent of the money on payroll — within 8 weeks,” Rubio said in an online video message. “They need 12 weeks or 16 weeks because they are just starting to reopen now because there are different rules in different places."

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Thursday morning, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to President Trump, asking the administration to fly flags at half staff when the death toll in the U.S. reaches 100,000.

COVID-19 impact on communities of color

Schumer also weighed in on the terrible toll the coronavirus is taking on communities of color. In New York, African Americans are twice as likely to die of the virus.

"The reason is very simple. Communities of color, minority communities and poor communities don't have adequate health care and haven't for a very long time," Schumer told The View's Whoopi Goldberg.

Schumer advocated for more testing, particularly within minority communities.

"Let me say one thing about testing. This has been one of the greatest failures of this administration, and I hope they learn from it," Schumer said.

This report is part of “Pandemic – A Nation Divided,” ABC News' special coverage of the heightened racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Tune into "Nightline" for a three-day series starting tonight, 12 a.m. ET on ABC.

Schumer said he has asked the Trump administration to provide detailed data on minority-owned business's access to emergency lending funds. In the first round of Paycheck Protection Program, many of the smallest businesses and minority-owned businesses had a difficult time receiving approval for loans.

Inspector general firings

In the wide-ranging interview, Schumer also reacted to Trump's firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick late Friday. Trump has said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked him to fire Linick. Linick had been conducting at least two oversight investigations into Pompeo's activities, including the administration's use of emergency powers to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia despite congressional opposition, and whether Pompeo was inappropriately using staff to run personal errands, according to a congressional aide.

"Unfortunately it seems to be what the President does. When he hears the truth, instead of listening to it and adapting to it, he fires people," Schumer said. Schumer called for a full investigation into the charges against Pompeo.

Tensions on the Hill amid GOP push to investigate

Tensions have flared on Capitol Hill over Senate Republicans' push to investigate Obama administration officials and the origins of the Russia investigation. The probes, Democrats say, are designed to dig up dirt against former Vice President's son Hunter Biden, who has worked in Ukraine. Schumer has said Republicans are chasing a "wild conspiracy theory."

On Wednesday, the Senate Homeland Security Committee voted 8-6 to subpoena Blue Star Strategies, a lobbying firm that was a consultant to Burisma, a gas company in Ukraine that paid Hunter Biden to serve as a board member.

There is no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens, and Hunter Biden has denied using his influence with his father to aid Burisma. But Republicans coming to President Donald Trump’s defense during and after last year’s impeachment trial have encouraged investigations of Hunter Biden’s activities, questioning whether his highly paid job created a conflict of interest for Joe Biden as the former vice president worked on Ukraine policy in the Obama administration.

Trump has been clear about his intentions to use Hunter Biden’s work in his reelection bid, saying in March that it will be a “major issue” in the campaign. “I will bring that up all the time,” he said then.

Touching on President Trump's frequent tweets on "Obamagate," his key phrase to refer to allegations that the Obama administration used government resources to spy on the 2016 Trump campaign, co-host Meghan McCain asked Schumer if he could say with "100% certainty" that this did not happen.

"I didn't say it, 17 intelligence agencies, these are non-partisan, people who have risked their lives for us, CIA, NSA, they said it. This came from Russians who wanted to divert attention from what they did, and for the President and Senate to spend time of this during the Covid crisis is just absolutely absurd," Schumer said.

Vote-by-mail provisions in the 2020 elections

As the 2020 election heats up, Trump has been slamming vote-by-mail provisions that have been recommended by health officials. Wednesday, Trump threatened to hold up federal funds for two election battleground states that are trying to make it easier and safer to vote during the coronavirus pandemic. He later backed away from that threat but stuck with his unsupported claim that widespread voting by mail promotes “a lot of illegality.”

"For the president to try to stop voting by mail is outrageous. this is not democrat or republican and in fact the experts don't know who voting by mail helps, which party. But all Americans should know one thing, we have a right to vote, its a sacred right, the president ought not stand in the way."

Schumer mentioned that the HEROES Act contains funding for every American to receive a mail-in ballot.

ABC News's Allison Pecorin contributed to this report.

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