Trump's acting Homeland Security chief was excoriated by a GOP senator as he stumbled over basic questions on coronavirus preparation
Acting Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf on Tuesday stumbled over questioning from GOP Sen. John Kennedy about the Trump administration's coronavirus response. Wolf struggled to offer Kennedy clear numbers on the expected spread of the virus, among other topics. "You're supposed to keep us safe. And the American people deserve some straight answers on the coronavirus — and I'm not getting them from you," Kennedy said to Wolf. Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.
Chad Wolf, the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, on Tuesday morning stumbled over basic questions from GOP Sen. John Kennedy on how the Trump administration is responding to coronavirus. The Louisiana Republican excoriated Wolf as he deferred to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on questions ranging from how far the US government was to developing a vaccine for the virus to how many people are predicted to become infected. "You're supposed to keep us safe. And the American people deserve some straight answers on the coronavirus — and I'm not getting them from you," Kennedy said to Wolf during the tense exchange before a Senate appropriations subcommittee. Wolf replied, "I disagree."
WATCH: Sen. Kennedy presses Acting DHS Sec. Wolf on coronavirus preparedness and equipment:"You're supposed to keep us safe. And the American people deserve some straight answers on the coronavirus — and I'm not getting them from you." pic.twitter.com/dBUXzNDaj1 — NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) February 25, 2020
"We do anticipate the number will grow. I don't have an exact figure for you, though," Wolf said when asked about the potential spread of the virus in the US. As Wolf struggled to provide a clear answer, Kennedy eventually went on to say, "Don't you think you ought to check on that, as the head of Homeland Security?" The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday urged Americans to prepare for a coronavirus crisis in the US. The CDC said the number of cases in the US had risen to 57 as of Tuesday, per CNN. "It's not so much a question of if this will happen any more, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, said during a media briefing. Wolf, like many other Cabinet-level officials in the Trump administration, has been serving as the head of a massive government agency in an acting capacity (without Senate confirmation) for months. The Trump administration has set up a coronavirus task force, which is being spearheaded by HHS Secretary Alex Azar and national security adviser Robert C. O'Brien, to coordinate the US government's handling of the virus. But President Donald Trump is facing bipartisan criticism over his administration's response to coronavirus as it's spread out of China and into other countries across the globe, from Iran to Italy, which has rocked financial markets. Trump on Monday requested $2.5 billion from Congress to address coronavirus, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said was "long overdue and completely inadequate to the scale of this emergency." Meanwhile, Trump has also faced criticism from congressional lawmakers over his prior decisions to scrap the global health security units on the National Security Council and at Homeland Security, which Democratic lawmakers have said puts the US at a disadvantage in facing this virus. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Extremists turned a frog meme into a hate symbol, but Hong Kong protesters revived it as an emblem of hope
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Trump suspends travel from Europe — except the UK and Ireland — for 30 days to contain the coronavirus spread
President Donald Trump announced that his administration is suspending travel from Europe — except the UK...President Donald Trump announced that his administration is suspending travel from Europe — except the UK and Ireland. Trump's announcement caused confusion, as he initially said cargo would be impacted — this was later retracted — and it was unclear who was impacted by the travel ban. The Department of Homeland Security released guidelines after his speech. Legal permanent residents and, in most cases, the family members of US citizens would not be impacted by this proclamation. "While these new travel restrictions will be disruptive to some travelers, this decisive action is needed to protect the American public from further exposure to the potentially deadly coronavirus," DHS Acting Secretary Chad F. Wolf said. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that all travel from Europe, except for the UK and Ireland, will be suspended for at least a month. In a press conference, Trump said travel to the continent will be suspended for 30 days, starting this Friday, saying these measures were "strong but necessary." The president also signed a Presidential Proclamation, in which non-US citizens who visited some European countries two weeks before coming to the US would not be allowed into the country, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The affected European countries include, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Together these countries form the Schengen area, an open-borders arrangement which means mostly unrestricted travel between the member nations. For instance, it is possible to travel from Denmark, to Italy, to Latvia, then to France without any passport checks. The United Kingdom and Ireland are not part of this arrangement, and continue to operate harder borders. "While these new travel restrictions will be disruptive to some travelers, this decisive action is needed to protect the American public from further exposure to the potentially deadly coronavirus," DHS Acting Secretary Chad F. Wolf said. Legal permanent residents and, in most cases, the family members of US citizens would not be impacted by this proclamation. Trump initially said cargo from Europe would be banned, but the White House later said it would not be impacted. White House officials believe Europe is the single biggest originator of new coronavirus infections, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. "A real threat right now is Europe," Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a House committee last Thursday. "That's where the cases are coming in. Europe is the new China." The coronavirus is rapidly spreading through Europe. Italy, the worst-hit country outside China, instituted a nationwide lockdown this week, as more than 12,000 people have been infected and at least 825 people have died from the virus. German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Wednesday that up to 70% of her country's population may become infected by the virus, according to the German newspaper Bild. France has over 2,250 COVID-19 case with at least 48 deaths and Spain has seen a huge surge in new cases. Spain currently also has over 2,250 cases and 55 deaths. The CDC issued Level 3 advisories for Italy, Iran, China, and South Korea late last month. Japan is at a Level 2, which urges Americans to take enhanced precautions while traveling to the country, and Hong Kong is at a Level 1, which urges "usual precautions." On Wednesday, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus, which has spread to more than 100 countries, a pandemic. The WHO defines a pandemic as "the worldwide spread of a new disease." The determination is based on the geographic spread of a disease, the severity of illnesses it causes, and its effects on society. The WHO is concerned both about how quickly the virus is spreading and the inaction it's being met with by governments around the world. COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, has sickened more than 126,000 people and killed over 4,600 people around the world. Jake Lahut, Hilary Brueck, Anna Medaris Miller, and Kieran Corcoran contributed to this report. SEE ALSO: Rep. Doug Collins, who toured the CDC with Trump last week, is self-quarantining after interacting with the CPAC coronavirus patient Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: A law professor weighs in on how Trump could beat impeachment