After Feds Grab Colorado Order Of 500 Ventilators, Trump Tweets State Will Get 100 From Stockpile

Trump Campaigns In Colorado Springs With Gardner
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
President Donald Trump campaigns in Colorado Springs, Feb. 20, 2020. He invited Sen. Cory Gardner to speak from the stage.

Colorado will be getting 100 ventilators “immediately” from the federal government, according to a tweet from President Donald Trump. He said it was at the request of fellow Republican, Sen. Cory Gardner.

Appropriately in the age of Trump, Gardner tweeted back his thanks.

The state has been on the hunt for ventilators for weeks. Gardner told Fox News that he brought up the issue with Trump during a Tuesday night phone call. 

“We’re going to continue to work with the president for more and continue to meet Colorado’s needs. But I think it’s just a sign that we are making sure we’re fighting for Colorado, we’re standing up for all of our states in this COVID-19 response,” he said in the interview.

What wasn’t hinted at during this Twitter exchange, or Gardner’s TV appearance, is the fraught relationship Colorado has had with the Trump administration as leaders here try to acquire the necessary medical equipment to combat COVID-19. 

Trump has been pressing states to buy their own supplies and not to rely on the federal government. However, when Colorado did just that and ordered 500 ventilators, the order was canceled by FEMA so it could buy the ventilators.

“So either work with us or don’t do anything at all,” Polis said on CNN last week after FEMA swiped the goods. “But this middle ground where they’re buying stuff out from under us and not telling us what we’re going to get — that’s really challenging to manage our hospital surge and our safety of our health care workers in that kind of environment.”

On Tuesday, Conor Cahill, a spokesperson for Polis, said the governor welcomes the news of more ventilators coming to the state. “He is committed to continuing to work with the federal government, other states, and the private sector to acquire the necessary equipment needed to protect the lives of Coloradans.”

The ventilator situation is not sitting well with Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette. In a statement she said, the entire delegation and the governor had been working on this issue for weeks. “President Trump says we will get 100 as a courtesy to Senator Gardner. That means, because the president is playing politics with public health, we're still 400 ventilators short from what we should have received. His mismanagement of this crisis is costing lives and livelihoods.”

The 100 ventilators also falls significantly short of what Polis has pushed the federal government to provide. He wrote to Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force on March 28, asking for 10,000 ventilators and more personal protective gear.

It’s not the first time the president has given credit to someone from his own party for securing federal aid, without acknowledging similar requests from Democrats. For example, after hurricane Dorian hit North Carolina last fall, Trump said he approved a disaster declaration for the state at the request of GOP Senator Thom Tillis. The request actually came from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

It’s not surprising that a president would want to give credit to a member of his own party, according to Seth Masket, professor of political science at the University of Denver; that's just politics. What’s raised concerns from some, is that politics also appears to be playing a role in where the equipment goes.

“It’s been further alleged that Trump has been handing them out to political supporters to swing states, to states that are likely to be competitive in the presidential race this fall. So [Trump’s Gardner tweet]  just sort of falls into that story line very neatly.”

Colorado may or may not be competitive in the presidential race, but Gardner definitely faces a tough re-election. His seat is key to Republicans retaining control of the Senate.

This isn’t the first time Trump has taken to Twitter to praise Gardner in this election year. In February, the president credited Gardner and fellow Republican Sen. Steve Daines for supporting full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The bill has strong bipartisan support, which Gardner has touted, but which the president has generally overlooked.  

Last Friday, as Trump defended his administration’s response to the pandemic amid a growing chorus of complaints, he bluntly said what he expected to hear from the nation’s governors.

“All I want them to do — very simple — I want them to be appreciative,” Trump said. “I don’t want them to say things that aren’t true. I want them to be appreciative. We’ve done a great job.”

The Washington Post reports Trump-friendly states like Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky have received all or more equipment than asked for from the national stockpile, while Colorado has received a fraction. The inequities aren’t uniform though; North Carolina, a critical swing state with a vulnerable Republican Senate seat, has also received significantly fewer supplies than requested.