The two jaw-dropping reasons Trump invoked the Defense Production Act but then didn’t use it

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Why isn’t Trump using all his abilities to wrangle corporations into fighting the coronavirus?

That’s the question many are asking as another day goes by without Trump making ANY use of the Defense Production Act—even as he calls himself a “wartime president.”

The shocking short answer is 1) Big Business told him not to and 2) “He wants to blame governors if things go badly.”

Here’s the stunning full story.

What even is the Defense Production Act?

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According to the Military Times,

The act gives the federal government broad authority to direct private companies to meet the needs of the national defense.

The Defense Production Act stems from the Korean War. Though it was originally intended to boost production during wartime, it can also apply to national emergencies.

There’s no question that Trump has the right to call upon this act during the coronavirus crisis. Hospitals face shortages of many necessary items, particularly protective masks and ventilators.

How Trump is—and isn’t—using his powers

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Trump technically invoked the Defense Production Act on Wednesday, March 18. But he later Tweeted that he signed the act only in case things got really, really bad:

Kushner says so

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Despite being pressured from people like New York’s Governor Cuomo to use the Act, Trump hasn’t been pressing for the large-scale mobilization of private corporations.

Why? Well, according to the Times,

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the heads of major corporations have lobbied the administration against using the act. They say the move could prove counterproductive, imposing red tape on companies precisely when they need flexibility to deal with closed borders and shuttered factories.Trump, his advisor/son-in-law Jared Kushner, and director of the national economic council, Larry Kudlow apparently all decided that these arguments were compelling enough to justify not mobilizing corporations en-masse to make the supplies that hospitals desperately need.

Voluntary offerings

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Instead, you have businesses working here and there voluntarily, but not really accomplishing much: Hanes and Fruit of the Loom are making masks, but they aren’t strong enough to meet most healthcare workers’ needs.

Ford and General Motors are supposed to start producing ventilators, but won’t give a timeline for doing so.

Looking for a scapegoat?

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Morning Joe host and ex-GOP Rep Joe Scarborough thinks Trump’s reluctance to use the Defense Production Act is just another way to avoid taking any responsibility. On his Monday morning show, Scarborough said:

“For the life of me, I don’t understand why he’s not using all the powers that he’s using. Really, to coordinate a national response like FDR coordinated a national response in WWII. He’s still holding back. He’s still deferring to governors. It’s almost like he wants to blame governors if things go badly.”

History has its eye on Trump

Trump looking out the window

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Historian Jon Meacham joined Scarborough to discuss the ways that Trump could be using his powers:

How bad does it have to get?

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Will the crisis ever reach the “worst-case scenario” that Trump requires before he really utilizes the Defense Production Act?

Let’s hope not—if things aren’t bad enough already, we really don’t want to see how much worse things need to get to make Trump act.

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