Former President Barack Obama on Friday during a private phone call with allies criticized the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as “chaotic” and warned that the “rule of law” was endangered by the Justice Department’s decision to drop charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The searing comments from Obama came during a 30-minute web talk with members of the Obama Alumni Association where the former president pushed for Democrats to rally behind Joe Biden to win the 2020 presidential election.
“This election that’s coming up on every level is so important because what we’re going to be battling is not just a particular individual or a political party,” Obama said according to audio of the call obtained by Yahoo News.
Obama was critical of Trump's response on the coronavirus pandemic:
“What we’re fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided, and seeing others as an enemy — that has become a stronger impulse in American life. And by the way, we’re seeing that internationally as well. It’s part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so anemic and spotty. It would have been bad even with the best of governments. It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset — of ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘to heck with everybody else’ — when that mindset is operationalized in our government.”
Trump earlier this week again blamed the Obama administration for a bare cupboard of medical supplies in the Strategic National Stockpile, telling ABC News the U.S. didn’t have ventilators, medical equipment and testing.
“And we’ve taken it and we have built an incredible stockpile — a stockpile like we’ve never had before,” Trump told David Muir.
The Obama administration faced repeated crises over the span of eight years, including the H1N1 influenza pandemic of 2009, but failed to take significant steps to replenish the supply of specific personal protective equipment, specifically N95 masks.
Trump has received significant blowback for his handling of the pandemic, mostly from Democrats, though his top health policy advisor on the White House coronavirus task force is Obama holdover Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institutes of Health.
Obama, who formally endorsed Joe Biden in April, also weighed in on the Flynn case following the news of Attorney William Barr’s decision to drop the criminal case against Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
“The fact that there is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free. That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic — not just institutional norms — but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk,” said Obama. “And when you start moving in those directions, it can accelerate pretty quickly as we’ve seen in other places.
Before taking office, Obama warned Trump about Flynn and his contacts with Russia.
“So I am hoping that all of you feel the same sense of urgency that I do,” he said referring to the 2020 election.